German health officials warn against talking loudly, singing and laughing

German health officials warn against talking loudly, singing and laughing
People social distancing and singing during the Dresden Open Air at the end of April 2020. Photo: DPA
Germany's public health agency has updated its advice on how coronavirus spreads, saying the risk of outbreaks heavily depends on "individual behaviour".

The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Germany surged past 1,700 in 24 hours, the highest daily toll since April, figures showed Thursday.

Now experts from the the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) have updated their advice on the transmission of the virus, highlighting the role face-to-face contact plays in outbreaks.

In its latest daily report, the RKI reiterated that the SARS-Cov-2 virus “can be transmitted easily from person to person”.

The agency said the risk of infection depends “heavily on the regional spread, living conditions and also on individual behaviour (physical distancing, hygiene measures and community masks).

“Here, contacts in risk situations (such as long face-to-face contact) play a special role,” said the RKI.

The health agency highlighted the dangers of social gatherings.

“Aerosol emission increases sharply when speaking loudly, singing or laughing,” the RKI said. “In indoor rooms, this significantly increases the risk of transmission, even if a distance of more than 1.5 metres is maintained.

“If the minimum distance of 1.5m without covering the mouth and nose is not maintained, e.g. when groups of people sit at a table or in large gatherings, there is also an increased risk of transmission outdoors.”

Across the world, choirs have been linked to a number of Covid outbreaks. Many choir groups have moved their practice outdoors and include social distancing measures.

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Large gatherings should be avoided

RKI called the rising number of cases in Germany “very concerning”. In total there have been 228,621 confirmed cases and 9,253 people have died in Germany.

“In the past few weeks the Covid-19 incidence has risen markedly in many federal states and the number of districts reporting zero Covid-19 cases over a period of 7 days has decreased considerably,” the health agency said.

Much of the rise has been blamed on returning holidaymakers as well as parties and family gatherings.

The RKI said outbreaks had been found in “nursing homes and hospitals, facilities for asylum-seekers and refugees, community facilities, meat-processing plants, agricultural and other occupational settings, as well as in the context of events with family and friends, religious events and travel”.

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Officials also said more younger people are picking up the virus at the moment.

The RKI said Germany must stop the situation from getting worse.

“On the one hand, the increase in younger age groups needs to be stopped, on the other hand, transmission into older and vulnerable groups needs to be prevented,” the agency said.

“As soon as the number of infections rises among elderly people, hospitalisations and the number of deaths will likely rise as well.”

Health officials urged people to remain cautious and do their bit.

“This can only be prevented if the entire population continues to be committed to decreasing transmission, e.g. by consistently observing rules of physical distancing and hygiene – also outdoors – by airing indoor areas and, where indicated, by wearing a community or face mask correctly.

“Large gatherings – especially indoors – should be avoided, and events with family and friends should be limited to close family members and friends.”

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