Germany Lowers Virus-Risk Level as Pandemic Threat Recedes

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Germany cut its Covid-19 risk level to “high” from “very high” in the latest sign that the coronavirus pandemic is loosening its grip on Europe’s largest economy.

After raising its contagion warning in December, the Robert Koch Institute -- the country’s public health authority -- is lowering it on Tuesday, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn. The move is a sign of lower infections and fewer people with the virus in intensive care, he said.

“If the trend continues, then it could be a really good summer,” Spahn said at a press conference in Berlin. “We have reason for optimism.”

Germany Lowers Virus-Risk Level as Pandemic Threat Recedes

Germany has been easing restrictions as infections fall and vaccinations accelerate. On Tuesday, the country had 35.2 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, one of the lowest levels since mid-October. The number of Covid patients in ICUs has declined to less than 2,500 people, less than half the peak in January.

Despite the positive trend, authorities cautioned that risks remain.

Germany Lowers Virus-Risk Level as Pandemic Threat Recedes

“We are still in the middle of this pandemic,” said Spahn. “We are seeing, for example in the U.K., that virus mutations can lead to high incidence rates even with widespread vaccinations.”

Lothar Wieler, RKI’s president, said that the vaccination rates need to be higher than 80% to eliminate all curbs. As of Monday, nearly 50 million people, or 43% of the population, had received at least one vaccine dose and 17.6% are fully inoculated.

After a slow start amid a shortage of shots, Germany will open up vaccinations to all adults next week. Spahn confirmed plans to offer at least a first dose to kids from 12 years old by the end of August.

The virus will eventually become endemic, said Wieler. Then, people will have two choices: get vaccinated or assume they’ll get sick at some point. But for now, authorities still need to careful.

“The pandemic isn’t over yet,” said Wieler. “We must build on these successes to lower incidence rates further.”

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