As many parts of Germany continue to reduce restrictions due to the low number of COVID-19 cases, the country’s incidence rate increased for the fifth day in a row on Sunday.
Although the rate remains at a low level from the spring, authorities continue to urge caution, especially in light of the rapid increase in cases in other European countries and amid a reluctance to reimpose restrictions.
At the same time, a growing chorus of politicians – including those in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government – are pushing for the remaining restrictions to be lifted in the coming weeks.
What are the latest figures?
Germany’s public health body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), reported 745 new national cases and six other confirmed deaths on Sunday.
However, the incidence rate – the number of new infections per 100,000 population over a seven-day period – increased for a fifth consecutive day, reaching 6.2 from 5.8 on Saturday.
The incidence rate a week ago was 5, according to the RKI.
The infection rate is still well below its April peak of 169.3 or its all-time high of 197.6 in December 2021, when tens of thousands of new cases were reported every day.
However, the latest figures also come amid concerns about the spread of the delta variant, which is part of a spike in cases in Portugal, Spain, Russia and Britain.
The delta variant, which was first identified in India, is currently the “dominant variant in Germany”, according to the RKI.
Politicians look up at the last brakes
While the incidence rate may be on the rise, many German politicians are deeply reluctant to reimpose restrictions.
Some argue that the vaccination rate should play a bigger role in pandemic decision-making. People who are vaccinated should have less severe symptoms and recover more quickly, even if they are infected.
“The more people are vaccinated and tested, the more the incidence value alone loses its informative value,” said Tobias Hans, Prime Minister of the small state of Saarland. Welt am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.
Hans, a member of Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU), argued that the occupation of the country‘s hospital beds would be a better measure of the severity of the pandemic situation in Germany.
“If everyone has received a full vaccination offer and the vaccination protects against serious illnesses, including new variants, we need to gradually resume our measures against coronaviruses,” he told the newspaper.
The latest figures from the RKI show that 58% of people eligible for the vaccine in Germany have received a first dose, while 42% are fully vaccinated.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also backed calls for the remaining restrictions to be lifted.
The center-left Social Democrat (SPD) said they could be relaxed once a vaccine offer is extended to everyone – a milestone is expected to be reached in August.
Warnings against closing businesses and schools
The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) also questioned the lingering weight of the incidence rate, saying repeated blockages should be avoided at all costs.
“The incidence rate alone should not be the yardstick for everything when there is a high vaccination rate in Germany,” said DIHK President Peter Adrian. Handelsblatt newspaper.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also strongly warned against closing schools on Sunday, saying it caused major social inconvenience for many students in Germany.
“School closures should no longer be allowed to repeat themselves,” OECD director of education Andreas Schleicher told local public broadcaster MDR.
He urged schools to be equipped with the right technology and equipment to withstand future outbreaks of cases.
âDistance learning only worked for those who were already prepared for it,â Schleicher said.
“Don’t overdo it”
As debate rages on whether to ease the remaining COVID restrictions, other German lawmakers have called on the public to remain cautious.
SPD health expert and lawmaker Karl Lauterbach sharply criticized UEFA, the European football body, for allowing tens of thousands of fans to attend the last Euro 2020 match between the Italy and England tonight.
“There is a shadow over this European Championship and UEFA is responsible for the deaths by its ignorant approach. It has to be said very clearly. UEFA failed in my opinion,” Lauterbach told the football magazine. 11Freunde.
Wolfgang SchÃ¤uble, speaker of the lower house of the German parliament and veteran CDU politician, also expressed his “great concern” at the crowded stadiums for the Euro 2020 championship in London.
While people are also expected to return from summer vacations to crowded tourist destinations, SchÃ¤uble said there was a risk that Germany could experience a fourth wave if people were not careful.
“Therefore: Dear people, you are happy that we can again go out to eat and meet people – but do not overdo it,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
rs / dj (dpa, Reuters, epd)