‘The German government has sent the wrong signal by relaxing coronavirus lockdown’

'The German government has sent the wrong signal by relaxing coronavirus lockdown'
People enjoying the sun in a park in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: DPA
A top German virologist has slammed the government for easing rules in place to stall the spread of coronavirus, warning of a second wave of infections.

Virologist Melanie Brinkmann of the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, told Spiegel that relaxing some lockdown measures leads people to think the coronavirus crisis in Germany is coming to an end.

“People are now seeing that some measures are being relaxed, and this gives them the impression that they will soon be able to return to normal life.” said Brinkmann.

However, there is no chance of that happening anytime soon, she said.

“The government has sent the wrong signal with the relaxation, and I am afraid that many people are now no longer taking the virus so seriously and are having more contact with other people again,” said Brinkmann.

“If that happens, we will soon be back to where we started.”

Contact restrictions, including a ban on gatherings of more than two people outside, are still in place in Germany up to and including May 3rd but public life is gradually reopening.

But scientists have been saying the country should not move too quickly.

Virologist Christian Drosten, warned in an NDR podcast that a second wave of infection could hit Germany with even greater force than the first. The virus “continues to spread” even with measures in place he said.

READ ALSO: 'Let's not risk a setback': Merkel warns against easing Germany's coronavirus rules too quickly

Brinkmann agrees.

“If we take it lightly now, this is exactly the scenario that will happen, yes: we will get a second wave of infection, which will be even more severe than the previous one because it will take place throughout the country and will be less localised, as was the case with the first wave,” she said.

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Brinkmann said the relaxing of measures would “probably” result in the infection rate rising above one again – “then we will have exponential growth again, which will be very difficult to control,” she said.

“From a virological point of view, there is no basis for easing the lockdown right now. Intelligent adaptation, yes, but all in all we cannot afford a resurgence of infection rates. After all, we still don't have any tools (vaccine or treatment) with which we can counter the virus if it picks up again.”

READ ALSO: Each corona-hit person infecting 'fewer than one' in Germany

App needed for life in corona times

Brinkmann said Germany was “lagging behind” when it comes to digital ways of dealing with the pandemic, and said the country needed to relax data protection laws for a limited period during the pandemic.

“For me, the (coronavirus) app pared with consistent behaviour of the population is currently the only way to keep the pandemic under control,” she said.

“So we should all continue to behave as we have done in the past few weeks. As a rule of thumb you should only meet with a small circle of people on a regular basis.

“As long as you can trace the contacts, this helps a lot to stop infection chains from forming.”

So at what point can we start thinking about going on party holidays with a group of friends?

For Brinkmann there is only one answer: “When there is a vaccine,” she said.

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