Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (right) and Lothar H. Wieler (left), President of the Robert Koch Institute, speak to the media on Friday, February 19, 2021, during a press conference in Berlin. (AP Photo / Michael Sohn, Pool)
The head of the German disease control agency warned on Friday that the decline in new coronavirus cases in the country has leveled off, while the proportion of cases with contagious variants is rising.
The President of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said Germany could be heading for another "turning point" in the pandemic after weeks of infections.
"The decline in recent weeks does not seem to continue," said Wieler to reporters in Berlin, noting that in a German state – Thuringia – the weekly number of cases is increasing again.
His agency reported 9,113 new COVID-19 cases and 508 more virus-related deaths last day. Germany has recorded almost 2.4 million confirmed cases and 67,206 deaths from the coronavirus since the pandemic began.
The number of new cases reported weekly per 100,000 inhabitants has fallen to just under 57. Dozens of counties have reported infection rates below 35 per 100,000. This is the level at which certain lockdown measures could be lifted, according to the government.
But no German state as a whole has reached this threshold. The Thuringian rate is currently almost 117 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week.
The trend comes from the fact that several federal states are preparing to reopen elementary schools and kindergartens next week. This has been criticized by some teacher unions, who claim that there are inadequate measures in place to protect students and staff.
A helper vaccinates a pensioner in a so-called "rolling vaccination center" in Bannewitz near Dresden for a test run on Friday, February 19, 2021. From this weekend such vaccination centers will be used in three Saxon communities. (Robert Michael / dpa via AP)
A helper prepares a vaccine against Covid-19 from Biontech / Pfizer for a vaccination in a so-called "rolling vaccination center" in Bannewitz near Dresden for a test run on Friday, February 19, 2021. At the weekend, such vaccination centers will be used in three Saxon communities. (Robert Michael / dpa via AP)
Wieler emphasized that the hygiene policies developed for schools must be put into practice.
"We have around 8 million students in Germany and almost 700,000 teachers," he said. "The existing safety plans (…) must be implemented. This is the prerequisite for the opening of elementary schools and kindergartens."
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn expressed concern about the increasing proportion of contagious virus variants in known cases.
Earlier this week, he said the variant, first discovered in the UK, accounts for 22% of cases in Germany, up from 6% two weeks ago.
Spahn told reporters in Berlin on Friday that the government intends to double the number of vaccinations in the coming weeks from the current 140,000 per day.
Germany has given almost 3 million first doses since the end of December. More than 1.5 million people received their second shot.
Spahn confirmed a report by the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel that the government has appointed a special advisor for vaccine manufacturing to coordinate with manufacturers and expedite the delivery of additional doses to Germany.
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In Germany, there has been a decline in virus cases with an increase in variants (2021, February 19).
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