Germany considers longer COVID lockdown amid 'exponential' rise in cases

19 March 2021, 15:21

Germany 'may even have to take steps backwards' to stop rising infections.
Germany 'may even have to take steps backwards' to stop rising infections. Picture: PA

By Harriet Whitehead

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that rising infections in the country mean it may not be possible to ease restrictions in the coming weeks.

Spahn said on Friday that curbs to slow the spread of the virus may have to be re-imposed, and Germany may not be able to relax its lockdown measures in the run-up to Easter.

Germany was to begin step two of easing the general lockdown, which is set to last until March 28.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to meet with leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states on Monday to discuss whether to extend a lockdown that has been in place since mid-December.

Spahn made these comments as Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, in light of the number of rising cases.

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"The rising case numbers may mean that we are unable to take any further steps towards opening up in the weeks to come. On the contrary, we may even have to take steps backwards," Spahn said.

There were 17,482 new infections in Germany on Friday, with 226 deaths. The country now has an incidence rate of 95.6 cases per 100,000 people over seven days.

Germany’s coronavirus cases rose by the most in two months in the 24 hours through Friday morning.

Lars Schaade, deputy head of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s main public health agency, said the increase in cases had accelerated in the past few days and it is “now clearly exponential”.

Schaade also noted that the incidence rate was rising fast in the under-60s, mostly among those aged between 15 and 49.

He said Germany could face a similar situation at Easter to Christmas, “with a very high number of cases, a lot of severe cases, many deaths and hospitals under a lot of strain”.

Indeed, the number of people with Covid-19 who are being treated in ICUs is also increasing.

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This news comes as Germany, France and many other European nations announced plans to resume using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

The EMA confirmed the vaccine is "safe and effective" and its benefits outweigh any risks.

However, the regulator said it "cannot rule out definitively" a link between "a small number of cases of rare and unusual but very serious blood clotting disorders" and the vaccine, with investigations ongoing.