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HEALTH

Germany sees highest level of confirmed coronavirus cases since May

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has reached its highest level in more than three months.

Germany sees highest level of confirmed coronavirus cases since May
A test centre sign at Hanover airport. Photo: DPA

Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control on Wednesday reported 1,226 new cases within 24 hours. The last time infections were higher was on May 9th when 1,251 new cases were registered.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has called the development “undoubtedly worrying”.

The peak in the number of new infections reported daily was at the beginning of April when there were more than 6,000 cases.

The number fell in May, but has been rising again since the end of July. Experts are concerned there could be a sharp increase in the number of cases, which would push health authorities to their limits in tracking chains of infection.

Spahn said the rise in cases was a warning sign. “This is undoubtedly worrying,” the Christian Democrat (CDU) politician said on Wednesday during an interview on Deutschlandfunk radio.

“Here we see that due to the return of travel, but also due to parties of all kinds, due to family celebrations in many places in the country, we have small and large outbreaks in almost all regions of the country.

“And of course, if we don't all pay attention to each other now, this can create a dynamic.”

READ ALSO: How Germany is preparing for a second coronavirus wave

Spahn said everyone in Germany must remain alert. RKI head Lothar Wieler has also warned against carelessness, which causes rising infection rates.

The current infections are spread across the country rather than the hotspots we've seen in the previous two months, such as the Tönnies meat processing plant outbreak earlier in the summer. This development makes it trickier to trace infection chains and stamp out the virus.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, at least 218,519 people in Germany have contracted the Sars-CoV-2 virus, the RKI reported on Wednesday morning.

Since the previous day, six new deaths have been reported. According to RKI, the number of deaths stands at 9,207. Around 198,800 people have survived coronavirus in Germany, according to estimates.

Spahn said the health care system is well able to cope with the current infection numbers. But with every new infection, it would become more difficult for the health authorities.

READ ALSO: Is Germany heading for a second lockdown amid rise in coronavirus cases?

Renewed appeal to stick to the rules

Spahn again appealed to citizens to observe the rules of hygiene, wear masks, keep their distance and maintain the setting at events.

He was sceptical about the prospects for major events. They are currently banned in Germany until the end of October.

“Whether it's football matches, whether it's other major events, that's something where I continue to be very cautious, because these are of course the very events that have a symbolic effect on the smaller ones,” he said.

On Wednesday some 2.5 million children were returning to 5,500 schools in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state.

The country is watching this development closely because in this densely populated state, it could become particularly clear how health and protection concepts in schools are working.

But President of the Medical Council, Klaus Reinhardt, spoke out against closing entire schools in case of individual coronavirus infections.

“If a corona case occurs in a school, the school does not have to be closed directly for 14 days,” he told the newspaper Rheinische Post. It would be sufficient if individual classes or courses stayed at home instead, he said.

 

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COVID-19 RULES

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Many Covid restrictions have been dropped in Germany, but some rules remain in place. And as infections increase again, it's important to be aware of what you should do if you get Covid.

EXPLAINED: The Covid rules in place across German states

Germany has relaxed or changed many Covid restrictions in recent months. However, with Covid infections rocketing again, people are reminding themselves of what rules remain in place, and what they have to do if they get a positive test.

Here’s a quick roundup of what you should know. 

Face masks

Covid masks have to be worn when travelling on public transport, including planes departing to and from Germany. 

They also have to be worn in places where there are more vulnerable people, such as care homes, hospitals and doctor offices. 

Masks are not mandatory anymore in shops (including supermarkets) and restaurants, but individual businesses can enforce the rule so watch out for signs on the door. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

FFP2 masks have become the standard in Germany, but in some cases other medical masks are sufficient.

There are no longer any entry rules to public venues such as the 3G or 2G rule, meaning that people had to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. 

However, they could return in autumn if the infection protection laws are adapted, and if the Covid situation gets worse.

Mandatory isolation 

The rules on isolation differ from state to state, but there is one general requirement: those who test positive for Covid have to go into isolation at home and avoid all contact with people outside the household. The isolation period lasts at least five days or a maximum of 10 days.

If you get a positive result at home, you should go to a test centre and undergo a rapid antigen test. If it is positive, the quarantine obligation kicks in. If it is negative, you have to get a PCR test.

If you have Covid symptoms, you should contact your doctor, local health authorities or the non-emergency medical on-call service on 116 117. They can advise or whether you should get a PCR test. 

Across German states, the isolation period lasts 10 days, but – as we mentioned above – there are differences on how it can end earlier. 

In Berlin, for instance, it can be shortened from the fifth day with a negative test if you have been symptom free for 48 hours. If this isn’t the case, the isolation is extended until you have been symptom-free for 48 hours and tested negative. But you can leave without a negative test after 10 days. 

A positive Covid test.

A positive Covid test. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Anyone who tests positive for Covid using a rapid test at a testing centre can have a free PCR test to confirm whether they have Covid-19. If the PCR test is negative, there is no obligation to go into quarantine.

In Bavaria, the isolation period is five days after the first positive test. For isolation to end on day five you must be symptom free for at least 48 hours. Otherwise, isolation is extended for 48 hours at a time until the maximum of 10 days. 

A test-to-release is not needed to end the isolation, unless the person works in a medical setting. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

After isolation, Bavaria recommends that you wear an FFP2 mask in public places indoors and reduce contact for an extra five days. 

The state of Hesse has a similar system to Bavaria where a test is not needed to end the isolation early (unless the person works in a medical setting).

In North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, residents can end their Covid isolation on the fifth day if they get a negative test (carried out at a testing centre). Otherwise the isolation period continues until the 10th day, or until they get a negative test.

Close contacts of people infected with Covid (including household contacts) no longer have to quarantine in Germany, but they are advised to get tested regularly and monitor for symptoms, as well as reduce contacts for five days. 

As ever, check with your local authority for the detailed rules.

Travel

Germany recently provisionally dropped almost all of its Covid travel restrictions, making it much easier to enter the country. 

The changes mean that entry into Germany is now allowed for all travel purposes, including tourism. The move makes travel easier – and cheaper – for people coming from non-EU countries, particularly families who may have needed multiple Covid tests for children. 

People also no longer have to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test against Covid before coming to Germany – the so-called 3G rule. 

However, if a country is classed as a ‘virus variant’ region, tougher rules are brought in. 

It is likely that travel rules could be reinstated again after summer or if the Covid situation gets worse so keep an eye on any developments. 

READ ALSO: Germany drops Covid entry restrictions for non-EU travellers

Vaccine mandate

The mandate making Covid vaccinations compulsory for medical staff remains in place. A vaccine mandate that would have affected more of the population in Germany was rejected by the Bundestag in a vote in April

READ ALSO: Germany’s top court approves Covid vaccine mandate for health care workers

Workplaces

Masks are no longer mandatory in workplaces, unless it is in a setting where more risks groups are, such as hospitals or care homes. 

The government no longer requires people to work from home, but employers and employees can reach their own ‘home office’ arrangement.

Tests are also no longer mandatory, but workplaces can offer their employees regular tests. 

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