Coronavirus: Germany infection rate rises as lockdown eases

Staff at a drive-through testing centre in BerlinImage copyright
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Germany has introduced a mass testing regime, including drive-through centres like this one in Berlin

Coronavirus infections are rising in Germany, official data shows, just days after the country eased its lockdown restrictions.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s reproduction rate – the number of people each confirmed patient infects – is now above 1.

This means the number of infections is now rising in the country.

The report came as thousands of Germans gathered on Saturday calling for a total end to the lockdown.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a broad relaxation of national restrictions on Wednesday after talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

All shops are allowed to reopen, pupils will gradually return to class and the Bundesliga – Germany’s top football league – will restart as soon as next weekend.

But there were protests across the country on Saturday, as some called for measures to be lifted even quicker.

Germany has the seventh-highest number of confirmed cases in the world, with latest RKI data on Sunday showing the reported infected tally at 169,218 and a reported death toll of 7,395.

What did the report say?

The report from the public health agency released on Saturday said the reproduction rate was estimated at 1.1.

While this estimate involves “a degree of uncertainty”, the rise in the number requires “a close monitoring of the situation in the coming days”.

Germany has won praise for its response to the outbreak. Mass testing and effective lockdown restrictions have helped keep the death toll far lower than in other European countries.

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But some have criticised Mrs Merkel’s decision to relax those measures after speaking with the heads of the 16 states on Wednesday.

The chancellor imposed an “emergency break”, requiring local authorities to reimpose restrictions if cases rise above a threshold of 50 per 100,000 people.

Outbreaks at meat processing plants in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have already reportedly breached that line, and forced district officials to act.

And one district in the state of Thuringia reportedly recorded more than 80 infections per 100,000 people, thought to be due to outbreaks at care facilities.

How is Germany taking the lockdown?

While some worry that the country is easing its restrictions too soon, others in Germany are protesting against the continued lockdown.

Small numbers of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks but on Saturday this swelled to thousands of people who gathered in cities across the country – including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart.

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Officers in Berlin arrested about 30 people outside the Reichstag on Saturday for not obeying social distancing measures. Authorities say some demonstrators threw bottles at the police.

Right-wing groups and conspiracy theorists also took part in some of the protests.

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Some protests however became violent, with police using pepper spray and arresting a number of people in Berlin