“We are at a new phase in the epidemic, also socially speaking,” said RKI vice president Lars Schaade in Berlin on Thursday, referring to coronavirus restrictions being relaxed around Germany to allow for a gradual return to public life.
Yet this does not mean that the country can let its guard down, he added. “We are still at the beginning of the pandemic, the virus is still in Germany” he said. “We have a new normality.”
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 state premiers loosened official contact restrictions.
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People from two separate households, rather than just two people, can meet together in public, said the chancellor.
Individual states have also loosened their measures significantly, with the majority allowing all stores to open, and many beginning to open restaurants, hotels and some fitness studios throughout the month of May.
“There is still a risk to relaxing the rules even further,” said the RKI vice president, who added that Germans would have to learn to live with the coronavirus, at least until there was a vaccine or drugs for treatment available.
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There have been a total of around 168,100 coronavirus infections in Germany so far (as of Thursday May 7th), with around 7,275 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. A total of 139,900 people are reported to have recovered.
Testing of the coronavirus
According to Schaade, Germany has the capacity to carry out one million coronavirus per week, but have only been conducting about one-third of that amount, he said.
“From my point of view it is not bad to have a reserve,” said Schaade, who added that that the number of coronavirus cases will increase again, especially among the elderly.
“Unfortunately, we must expect a further increase in deaths,” said the RKI vice president.
Schaade referred to three pillars which are particularly important in the fight against Covid-19: containment of the virus, protection of risk groups and the creation of treatment capacities.
“The goal is still to keep the number of cases as low as possible,” said Schaade. The work of the public health authorities is also essential in the fight against coronavirus, he added..
He stressed how important it continues to be to test people who show symptoms of a respiratory disease, have had contact with risk groups, or who have had contact with an infected person.
Since the beginning of March, the Robert Koch Institute has been giving regular press briefings on Tuesday and Thursday morning but that will now be scaled back.
Schaade said, however, that the RKI “will still hold briefings when the opportunity arises”.