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INFECTION

Germany’s coronavirus infection rate drops below critical value of 1

Germany's coronavirus reproduction rate has dipped below the critical threshold of 1 after three days above this number.

Germany's coronavirus infection rate drops below critical value of 1
A sign urging people to keep 1.5 metre distance in Schillig, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Late on Tuesday May 12th, the Robert Koch Institute for public health and disease control announced in its daily report that the so-called R rate or estimated reproduction number was sitting at 0.94 in Germany.

That means on average a person with coronavirus infects less than one other person. The report went on to say that a “renewed upward trend” is not expected in Germany.

The RKI added that the overall number of cases in Germany was going down. However, there were still clusters of new cases, such as those reported at slaughterhouses, that would have an impact on the R value.

On Monday the RKI had registered an R number of 1.07 and on Sunday it was at 1.1, meaning 10 people with Covid-19 would have infected on average 11 others.

The RKI has warned that for the infection rate to be deemed under control and slowing down, the number has to stay below one. Just last Wednesday, as Germany announced easing of restrictions, the number stood at 0.65.

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The rising reproduction number had caused alarm, particularly after Chancellor Angela Merkel declared recently that Germany had left the “first phase” of the pandemic behind it and federal states announced relaxations of social restrictions.

READ ALSO: 'First phase of coronavirus pandemic behind us,' says Merkel

As of Wednesday May 13th, a total of 173,171 coronavirus infections had been registered in Germany, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. Of those cases, there have been around 7,738 deaths and 147,298 people have recovered.

Coronavirus 'not gone'

Earlier on Tuesday, RKI Vice President Lars Schaade said coronavirus “is not gone,” but the risk of infection is significantly lower than a few weeks ago.

The reason, he said, was that the number of daily new infections was not decreasing but rather approaching a plateau. It is therefore all the more important to continue to observe the rules of hygiene, Schaade explained.

However, the risk is significantly lower than four weeks ago, he added.

In the meantime, clusters of large outbreaks, such as the recent cases in slaughterhouses, have had a greater effect on the value than in the case of higher infection numbers overall, explained Schaade. 

“We can estimate that these recent outbreaks have increased reproductive numbers,” he said. If the outbreaks are under control, the R value could drop again. 

In the long term, the R number should not remain significantly above 1 – otherwise the number of cases would increase. 

Schaade said that values of 1.2 or 1.3 over a longer period of time would require very close attention and action on how the situation could be counteracted.

In future, the RKI will also provide a so-called “smoothed out R-value”, which would better balance out fluctuations. This would be suited to depict longer-term trends. 

“Last week, this stable R-value was not above 1 on any day”, Schaade stressed.

READ ALSO: German towns to reimpose shutdowns over coronavirus clusters

'Stay at home'

In the past week, between 700 and 1,300 new corona infections per day were reported to the RKI, and on Monday almost 1,000 cases were reported. 

“The numbers remain roughly comparable to last week's figures,” he said. Lower numbers on weekends are considered normal, for example due to delays in reporting by health authorities and closed doctors' offices.

The R value reflects the infection rate from about one and a half weeks earlier. The value of 1.07 reported on Monday, for example, reflects the situation in the period from April 28th to May 3rd.

The new cases from the past three days are not included in the estimate, because they are not reliable at this stage and can result in fluctuations. The R value is also only one of several ways of measuring the epidemic situation, Schaade said.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED – Germany's plan for post-lockdown life with coronavirus

To help keep the virus at bay, among other things Schaade said it is important for people in Germany to stay at home as much as possible, limit contacts and keep a distance to other people.

Despite the current low number of new infections in some regions, the number of undetected cases should not be ignored, Schaade said. 

People who don't know they have the virus could cause the situation to flare up again if they don't stick to rules, he said.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

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Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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