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Germany: Coronavirus Reproduction Number Rises Again

According to estimates by the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, the Corona reproduction number has increased to 0.9. This is a dangerous development. Was the easing of the restrictions premature?

It is a thin red line. The reproduction number shows how many persons each infected individual passes the Coronavirus on to, statistically. If and when that number increases to above 1, even by a narrow margin, the number of infected persons increases exponentially.

Danger of Second Corona Wave

Just a few days ago, Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is a scientist herself, explained what kind of consequences a slight increase would have. With a reproduction number of 1.1, Germany’s health system would reach its limit by October. At 1.2 it would happen in July.

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the reproduction number stood at 0.7 last week. By now it has increased to 0.9, the same institution says. This means Germany may be on the brink of another sharp rise in Corona infections. Or, far worse, a second infection wave could hit and lead to conditions like in Italy or the United States.

That is why there are scientists who believe the easing of the Corona restrictions was implemented too early. They want the reproduction number to decrease substantially first, down to 0.2, to make sure it cannot exceed 1 too quickly.

Liberal Approach in Federal States

But, in cooperation with the federal states, the government did ease some restrictions last week. After agreeing to a plan which included opening shops up to a certain size, some states went even further by extending the list of shops and other establishments that may open.

Was it too early? Should the stricter Corona rules have been prolonged? The retail business would have been even unhappier than it is now, and many Germans might have lost their patience in this case. Would it have been the right way to go anyway?

Even the RKI’s Vice President Lars Schaade warned there could be a second Corona wave. “If we continue pretending we have overcome the problem, there will be another outbreak. That is pretty certain”, Schaade said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Oktoberfest 2020 Cancelled

On Wednesday in the early morning, more than 148,000 individuals in Germany were infected with the Coronavirus. The number of those who used to be infected, but are cured now, stands at 95,000. There have been more than 5,000 related deaths in Germany.

In Germany, almost all big events have been cancelled by now, including Berlin’s Carnival of Cultures, the usual Rock festivals in summer and even Munich’s Oktoberfest. It’s Stuttgart equivalent called Cannstatter Wasen is still scheduled to commence on September 25th, but its cancellation is a foregone conclusion.

Only one single event stands. It is one that has a slight delay of nine years: The new airport for the Berlin Brandenburg region, BER, will definitely be opened on October 31st, which is Halloween. Nothing, not even Corona, will spoil that one. The big inauguration party was cancelled long before Corona because the delay is so embarrassing, people are not supposed to be reminded of it.

Mandatory Masks in Public Transport

The city state of Berlin was the last federal state to announce its new Corona rules on Tuesday. The Berlin Senate went farther than most other states by allowing all shops to open, starting today, as long as they make sure an area of up to 800 square meters (8,600 square feet) is being used, while the rest is off limits for customers. This includes shops in malls.

Berlin made wearing masks, or similar protections for mouth and nose, mandatory in its public transport system. This rule kicks in on April 27th, 2020. Protests with up to 20 individuals may be allowed. Prayer services with up to 50 participants will be legal from May 4th.

Berlin does go quite far, compared to most other federal states in Germany. But it is the largest city in the country, it has the largest number of retail businesses and department stores. Also it is the capital of protests. The Senate intended to align the rules with the specifics of the city.

Unconventional Summer Vacations

In the meantime, the Germans and other residents in their country are facing yet another bitter truth: This year’s summer vacations will be very different from those in the past seven decades. (Read separate article ‘Germany: Will We Be Spending the Summer Vacation on the Balcony?’).

After an online meeting with his colleagues from the other German-speaking countries Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there would not be any “normal vacation season” this summer. Responsibility for anything of the kind could not be taken.

By the way: The publication you are reading, The Berlin Spectator, was established in January of 2019. We have worked a whole lot, as you can see. But there has hardly been any income. This is something we urgently need to change. Would you consider contributing? We would be very thankful. Our donations page can be found here.

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