BERLIN — Warnings have sounded that a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is already hitting Germany as daily infection rates rise, with the government's infectious diseases institute also saying it was very concerned.
"The second coronavirus wave is already here. It is already taking place every day. We have new clusters of infection every day which could become very high numbers," Michael Kretschmer, premier of the eastern state of Saxony, told Saturday's edition of the Rheinische Post newspaper.
Kretschmer's comments come the day after the government's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) noted a significant rise in daily new infections from around 500 to over 800 at one point last week.
"This development is very worrying and will continue to be monitored very closely by the RKI," a spokeswoman told dpa on Friday evening. "A further exacerbation of the situation must be avoided."
The health authorities in Germany reported 781 new infections in the 24 hours to midnight (2200 GMT) on Friday, according to the institute. The previous day the number had been 815.
This means that at least 204,964 people in Germany have been infected with the coronavirus since the beginning of the outbreak, the RKI reported on Saturday morning, while 9,118 people infected with the virus have died to date, an increase of seven compared to the previous day.
An estimated 189,800 people had recovered from the infection by Saturday morning.
Germany has gradually lifted the severe restrictions put in place in mid-March to slow the spread of the virus.
As public life reopened, the government launched a coronavirus tracking app in mid-June designed to warn people of possible contact with the virus and track infection chains.
It has since been downloaded 16.2 million times, although it came under fire this week after widespread operating problems emerged.
The Health Ministry has since confirmed that the issue affects not only Android smartphone users but also iPhone users.
The problem is with a continual updating function that is meant to run in the background in order to exchange anonymous codes; however, operating systems have often been deactivating this when the app is not open in order to save the battery.
"Now, on more and more smartphones, contact verification is said to be patchy. This worries the more than 15 million users," the German Foundation for Patient Protection said on Saturday, calling for an explanation from Health Minister Jens Spahn.
The app debacle coincides with some unnerving data from the RKI.
The latest reproduction rate, which measures the disease's ability to spread, was 1.24, up from 1.08 the previous day, meaning that on average an infected person infects roughly more one other person.
The rate, also known as the R-value, has a time lag of about one and a half weeks. The RKI has repeatedly emphasized that for the outbreak to gradually subside, the rate must remain below 1.
The RKI also measures a seven-day R-value that is less subject to daily fluctuations. The latest value was 1.25, up from 1.16 the previous day.
Though numbers of new cases are growing across the country, the RKI said on Friday that more than 60 per cent are due to an uptick in infections in the western state of North Rhine Westphalia and in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg.
Regarding the recent increase in the number of new coronavirus infections in Germany, Health Minister Spahn said that this "had to do mainly with travel activities, returning travellers from certain regions, some of them the Western Balkans, Turkey."
He said that even the travel between the different federal states of Germany "brings with it corresponding risks if we do not recognize it."
"What we have at the moment is a lot of smaller outbreaks," said Spahn.
"(The question now is) whether this will turn into a wave or whether we will be able to break it together in time, that is, to quickly identify and quickly interrupt infection chains. This requires targeted but also extensive testing."
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