Coronavirus: Germany not alarmed by infection rate rise

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Large-volume tests helped to limit the spread of Covid-19 in Germany

The scientific body that advises the German government on the coronavirus says it is not concerned that the virus's reproduction rate – the R rate – is above one for three straight days.

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Above R1.0 means that, statistically, an infected person is passing the virus to more than one other person.

But Lars Schaade, of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said that only if the value of R rises above 1.2 or 1.3 for several days would he be concerned.

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Data is also subject to delays.

Schaade said that "individual days are not a problem".

He also said that the lower the total number of infections, the greater the impact of an outbreak – such as those recently reported in slaughterhouses – worth R.

Hundreds of German slaughterhouse workers – many from Eastern Europe – have tested positive and now thousands of other tests are being carried out in this sector. Only one slaughterhouse – in Coesfeld, North Rhine-Westphalia – has seen 260 cases.

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"If the second decimal digit were above 1, that would still not be critical. However, the higher it is above 1, such as 1.2 or 1.3 and for a long period of time, it would create a situation where we would provide a lot of attention and we’d think about measures on how to combat this, ”said Schaade.

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RKI said on Tuesday that the total number of deaths in Germany by Covid-19 reached 7,533. The daily average of deaths last week was 100 to 200. The death figures in some other European countries – notably Italy, the United Kingdom and Spain – are much higher.

Why Germany is not alarmed by the R rate

Judging the threat level of the coronavirus depends on understanding the rate at which it is spreading – what is known as & # 39; R & # 39 ;.

If this rate is greater than 1, the outbreak may increase because any infected person can transmit the virus to more than one person. But that is not the whole story.

What also matters is the actual scale of the infection – the number of people infected with the virus.

Thus, in Germany, while the R is now slightly above 1 and may rise further, the authorities are concerned, but do not panic.

That's because it is estimated that less than 1,000 Germans are infected every day.

Therefore, even if the rate of spread accelerates, the problem can be treated with careful surveillance and mass testing, because the numbers involved are manageable.

On the other hand, around 20,000 people in the UK are believed to be infected every day – much less than at the height of the outbreak, but still a serious number.

And on that scale of infection, even a small increase in the R rate could have a dangerous impact, potentially overwhelming the health service with a second peak in the crisis.

Tobias Welte, of the University of Hannover, is part of the German task force Covid-19. He told the BBC World Service that "we are in a stable phase, so we are between 600 and 1,000 new infections a day and now, for about a week, these are very stable numbers".

"A change in Germany that can be recognized: now we have some outbreaks of infections, for example, meat production, some types of industry, but if you look at Germany widely, the numbers are falling."

RKI reports that 170,508 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Germany and in the past 24 hours there have been 933 new infections.

The number of infections in Germany, according to Johns Hopkins University, is slightly higher – 172,626.

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