Health and Science

Germany's coronavirus infection rate edges higher after lockdown measures eased

Key Points
  • Germany's coronavirus infection rate has edged up, prompting concerns.
  • The head of the country's infectious diseases institute to urge people to stay at home as much as possible.
  • Germany has already started to relax lockdown measures.
A man and a woman wearing face masks walk past advertisements of a shoe store temporarily selling face masks and antibacterial hygiene products in Berlin on March 16, 2020.
Tobias Schwarz | AFP | Getty Images

Germany's coronavirus infection rate has reportedly edged up, prompting the head of the country's infectious diseases institute to urge people to stay at home as much as possible amid a relaxation of lockdown measures.

Germany's virus reproduction rate, called the "R" rate or value, is now at 1.0 in Germany, according to Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, having risen from 0.7 earlier this month.

The "R" rate means that, on average, every one person with the virus infects one other individual. Keeping this rate below 1.0 is an aim during the coronavirus pandemic.

"The number should stay below one, that is the big goal," Wieler told a news conference Tuesday, Reuters reported.

"The further it is below one, the more secure we can feel, the more leeway we have, but there are other numbers that are also important," he said, adding that these included the number of cases per day, and testing capacity.

Wieler urged Germans to maintain rigorous social distancing despite a slight easing of restrictions on public life.

"Against the background of the easing (of restrictions), let's ensure we can continue to defend this success we have achieved together," he said. "We don't want the number of cases to rise again."

"Let's, insofar as is possible, stay at home, let's stick to the reduced contact."

CNBC has asked the institute for further comment on the latest transmission data.

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Germany has 158,758 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,126 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The German death toll is far lower than those seen in other western European nations; France, for instance, has seen a similar number of cases (it has reported almost 166,000 cases) but more deaths, with 23,327 fatalities. Italy and Spain too have both seen over 23,000 deaths.

Germany, like Spain and Italy and a handful of other European countries, has tentatively started to lift its lockdown measures by allowing smaller retail stores to re-open last Monday as long as hygiene and social-distancing measures could be maintained. Larger car dealerships, bike shops and book shops have also been allowed to open their doors.

The latest data on the virus reproduction rate could give pause for thought, however, when it comes to Germany's lockdown exit strategy.

Last Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the coronavirus pandemic was not yet in sight and that we will have to live with the virus "for a long time."

Speaking to Germany's Parliament, the Bundestag, on Thursday, Merkel said "we are not living in the final phase of the pandemic, but still at the beginning."