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COVID-19

Germany continues to ease coronavirus restrictions as 289 new cases logged

As states continues to relax coronavirus lockdown restrictions, we looked at the latest on the epidemic in Germany.

Germany continues to ease coronavirus restrictions as 289 new cases logged
Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg: Hotel manager Cristina Gutu disinfects the bathroom of a room in the Arthotel in Magdeburg. Photo: DPA

States across Germany are continuing to loosen lockdown rules that were put in place to stall the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This week the tourism industry is kicking into action in some regions. Hotels in Berlin, Brandenburg and Lower Saxony can now welcome guests again after a two month shutdown.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the tourism industry was already allowed to welcome guests from its own state after the shutdown in mid-March.

But from now on, people from the other states are allowed to enter the northeast – but under certain conditions. For example, guests must pre-book an overnight stay in advance.

READ ALSO: Six great hikes in the northeast of Germany

In Berlin and Brandenburg, too, guests can once again stay in holiday homes, hostels and hotels. Hotels in Lower Saxony are also opening their doors to guests. However, they must remain at 60 percent capacity.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, too, bed occupancy in hotels or on campsites has so far been limited to 60 percent.

Elsewhere, holidaymakers and operators still have to be patient: in Saxony-Anhalt, hotels will likely be able to accept guests from other federal states as of May 28th. In Baden-Württemberg, holiday homes can currently only open if self-catering is possible. Hotels can open from May 29th.

In Bavaria, hotels will not open until May 30th. However, there are now more relaxations in place for the gastronomy industry: after the opening of outdoor areas, people can also now dine inside restaurants this week.

READ ALSO: Germans holidaying at home as fear of virus lingers

Meanwhile, some outdoor swimming pools are allowed to open in Berlin from May 25th, and will accept a limited number of guests who make an online reservation in advance.

In all cases, strict hygiene and distancing rules have to be in place.

READ ALSO: Is it safe to go swimming in Germany this summer?

289 new cases

On Monday May 25th Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control reported 289 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases since the outbreak began to 178,570. The number of deaths had climbed by 10 to 8,257 compared to the previous day.

According to the latest RKI data, the critical reproduction rate, or R-value, was 0.94 on Sunday. This means that each person with coronavirus infects on average slightly less than one other person. Experts have hammered home the importance of keeping the number under 1.

The R-value reflects the course of infection about one and a half weeks earlier. Since the middle of May, the RKI has also drawn up a so-called 7-day R. It refers to a longer period of time and is therefore less subject to daily fluctuations.

According to RKI estimates, the most recent 7-day value was 0.93. It shows the infection eight to 16 days ago.

READ ALSO: How worried should we be when Germany reports a higher coronavirus infection rate?

In the past seven days, only the city of Regensburg exceeded the critical limit of 50 new infections per 100,000 residents (72.1). In Bavaria, which has set a stricter limit of 35, the districts of Coburg (41.4) and Lichtenfels (41.9) exceeded this limit. In Thuringia, the Sonneberg district (35.6) is still severely affected.

The federal government has said some lockdown measures could be put back into place if the number of infections increase above set limits.

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

The states with the highest number of cases are Bavaria, with more than 46,326 confirmed cases and at least 2,382 deaths, North Rhine-Westphalia, with more than 37,298 cases and at least 1,565 deaths, and Baden-Württemberg, which has more than 34,431 confirmed cases and at least 1,698 deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University data, which differs slightly from RKI data because it is updated throughout the day, there have been 180,328 confirmed coronavirus infections so far in Germany, and 8,287 people have died.

A total of 160,881 people are reported to have recovered from coronavirus.

State plans to end restrictions

Meanwhile, the eastern German state of Thuringia wants to end coronavirus lockdown measures.

State premier Bodo Ramelow said on Saturday that he wanted to make lockdown measures, including face masks and contact restrictions, a thing of the past.

“From June 6th, I would like to lift the general lockdown and replace it with a package of measures that focus on local authorisations,” he said.

On Monday, the eastern state of Saxony also announced that it would let go of all of its restrictions after June 5th – making only a few exceptions which have not yet been announced.

Current coronavirus restrictions are in place up to and including June 5th, but are expected to be extended in some form.

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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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