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NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA

Coronavirus: Number of cases in Germany doubles to 129

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Germany jumped sharply to 129 on Sunday, official data showed, as the interior minister said he expected a vaccine by the end of the year.

Coronavirus: Number of cases in Germany doubles to 129
The Maria Hilf hospital in Mönchengladbach in North Rhine-Westphalia. where a doctor worked who was later found to have been infected with the virus. Photo: Jana Bauch/dpa
The latest tally given by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's centre for disease control and prevention, showed that the number of cases had almost doubled from 66 on Saturday morning.
   
More than half are in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state where an infected couple attended carnival celebrations.
   
The deadly virus has now reached nine of Germany's 16 states, with Frankfurt, Hamburg and Bremen among the cities reporting their first COVID-19 cases.
   
Speaking to the mass-daily Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he did not see a swift end to the virus's spread but was optimistic a cure could be found.
   
“I estimate that a vaccine will be available by the end of year,” he said, adding that he himself had stopped shaking people's hands.   
 
Asked whether Germany would go so far as to close off access to cities or regions, he said “such a scenario would be a last resort”.
   
The state of Bavaria announced four new cases on Sunday, including an employee at machine tool manufacturer DMG Mori.
   
The company has asked its 1,600 employees not to come to work on Monday.
   
Several hundred people meanwhile were released from quarantine in the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, allowing them to leave their homes again.
   
The cluster there has been linked to a carnival gathering on February 15. Four kindergarten children in Heinsberg also tested positive for the new coronavirus at the weekend, apparently contracted through a member of staff.
 
Organisers of the Leipzig book fair however said the event, which attracted over 280,000 people last year, would go ahead as planned from March 12-15.   
 
Germany has cancelled several major events in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including this week's ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.
   
The Michelin Guide restaurant star rating awards slated to take place in Hamburg on Tuesday have also been called off.
   
As the coronavirus continues to disrupt air travel and supply chains around the world, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the government stood ready to stimulate Germany's export-driven economy if the impact worsened.
   
“If the situation calls for it, we have the means to launch a fiscal stimulus package,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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