The reproduction or infection rate under close watch by health authorities mounted again to around 1.0, meaning each infected person passes the virus on to one other, figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control showed late Tuesday.
Ministers and virologists have hammered home the importance of squeezing the number below 1.0.
Since mid-April, the infection rate had sunk as low as 0.7 before inching back up again.
Yet Wieler insisted on Tuesday that the infection rate should not be taken out of context and “should only be looked at alongside other figures”.
“Another important figure is the number of new infections per day,” he said, a number which had fallen to just over 1,000 this week, having been twice or four times as high in weeks gone by.
The drop in new infections means that officials are now able to carry out
contact tracing again — something that had been abandoned in March when cases were rising too quickly.
Meanwhile the mortality rate from the disease has also been rising day by day, in part due to more outbreaks in elderly and care homes, according to the RKI.
By Tuesday, it had reached 3.8 percent according to RKI figures, which remains well below some neighbouring countries such as France.
As of Tuesday at 9 am, there were over 158,700 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,126 deaths, according to figures from John Hopkins University. which reports a slightly higher number of figures than the RKI due to calculating data in real time throughout the day.
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Rising infection and mortality rates could pose a puzzle for authorities, as a population chafing at lockdown measures is just beginning to enjoy some refound freedoms and an initial united front in politics and media crumbles.
Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier in April declared the pandemic “under control” in Germany, as Merkel and state premiers agreed smaller shops could open from last week and some pupils return to school from next Monday.
Meanwhile some major businesses like car giant Volkswagen have restarted production in recent days.
Now the less encouraging data will flow into the chancellor's deliberations with regional leaders on Thursday, ahead of a new round of lockdown decisions on May 6th.
Until now, the May 6th gathering had been expected to bring further easing of restrictions.
Merkel's pleas not to rush a step-by-step unwinding of lockdown for fear of again worsening the virus' spread were dismissed or even blasted as authoritarian by some voices in media and the opposition.
“Even if we assume that one person infects 1.1 others, we would reach the limits of what our health system and intensive care beds can manage in October,” she warned earlier this month.
“If we assume a rate of 1.2… we would reach the health system's limit in July. And with a rate of 1.3 — it doesn't sound like much — we would get there in June already,” she added.
Currently there are still sufficient intensive care beds and breathing stations in hospitals, Wieler said on Tuesday.