Germany Reports Fewest New Coronavirus Infections in Six Days

(Bloomberg) --

Germany recorded the smallest number of new coronavirus infections in six days, as the country moves ahead with a broad easing of restrictions put in place to fight the disease.

There were 555 additional cases in the 24 hours through Monday morning, the third straight decline and lifting the total to 171,879, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fatalities rose by 20 to 7,569.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a widespread lifting of national restrictions last Wednesday after talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states. Restaurants and shops are allowed to reopen, children will be returning to school in stages before the summer vacation and professional soccer matches will resume as soon as this weekend. Social-distancing rules will stay in place until at least June 5, and curbs may be reinstated locally in the event of a resurgence in infections.

Merkel has been cautious in her approach but has also come under pressure to speed up the country’s exit from the curbs that brought business activity in some sectors to a virtual standstill. There were protests across the country over the weekend, as some demanded a faster rollback of restrictions.

“The easing must take place gradually so that there isn’t a serious relapse in health protection,” Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Funke Mediengruppe in an interview published Sunday. The government will examine which sectors might need further targeted help, such us gastronomy, trade fairs and concert organizers.

Germany’s so-called reproduction number, which captures additional cases directly generated by one infected person, remained above one over the weekend. The factor -- known as R-naught -- is estimated at 1.13, according to the latest situation report from the country’s public health authority, the Robert Koch Institute, published Sunday evening.

R-naught needs to be below 1 to contain the virus spread. While the estimate includes “a degree of uncertainty,” the RKI said the increase makes it necessary to “observe the development very closely over the coming days.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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