Germany’s health minister has hailed a drop in coronavirus transmission rates in the country, citing physical distancing measures and an accelerating vaccination campaign.
“The third wave appears to be broken,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday during a weekly news briefing on Germany’s pandemic management.
Spahn’s comments came as the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases, Lothar Wieler, confirmed the incidence of COVID-19 infections was falling across all age groups in the country.
The institute recorded 18,485 new infections in the 24 hours leading up to Friday, compared with 27,543 during the same period two weeks ago.
Germany has recorded more than 3.5 million coronavirus infections and 84,410 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.
Spahn said the rate of infection had been driven down by efforts to reduce social contact and travel in recent weeks.
He also cited the rapid increase in vaccinations as a contributing factor. Mass immunisation efforts had initially got off to a sluggish start.
Spahn said about 26.2 million people, or about 31.5 percent of the German population, have now received at least one dose of vaccine. Almost nine percent have received a full dose of two shots.
About 900,000 people received a dose on Thursday, putting Germany “in the fast lane” by international comparison, Spahn said.
Germany gives all-clear to AstraZenecea
In a push to accelerate the vaccination drive, health authorities on Thursday allowed the shot from AstraZeneca to be given to all adults – reversing earlier curbs imposed after reports of rare cases of blood clotting.
The decision followed moves by several German federal states to allow people to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, in consultation with their doctors.
“We are convinced that this offer is attractive for those who would otherwise not get vaccinated so quickly,” said Spahn, adding that one million doses of the jab would be delivered to doctors’ practices next week.
But despite the apparent progress in curbing infections, Spahn warned against reopening some areas of public life too quickly, cautioning any such move would “bear a risk”.
Some of Germany’s 16 states have begun allowing limited tourism and outside dining again.
Spahn said Germans would need to endure “weeks or a few months” of restrictions yet in order for the country to fully get on top of the pandemic.
Legislation passed last month enabled the federal government to impose strict curbs including nighttime curfews, shutdowns and contact restrictions in areas where cases exceed 100 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days.
Even stricter measures can be applied in areas where recorded cases rise above 165 per 100,000 people.
Four of Germany’s states – Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein – are now under the key threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 people, according to data compiled by the Robert Koch Institute.
Three others – Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – are also getting close to breaching that figure.