In Depth

How Germany is preparing for a second wave

Spike in cases prompts Angela Merkel to reel back easing of lockdown measures

The German government has ruled out the further easing of coronavirus lockdown measures after recording 1,707 new cases on Wednesday, the highest number of new daily infections since 18 April.

The sudden spike in cases takes the total number of infections in the country to 228,621, according to data from public health agency the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which said the situation is “very concerning”.

However, with a death toll of just 9,253, Germany has been praised for its overall response to the pandemic, and has fared better than many European neighbours in suppressing the virus so far. 

What is the situation?

Germany announced on Thursday that it had recorded 1,707 new cases over the previous 24 hours, marking the highest increase in cases since the virus was at its peak in late April.

The nation has “widely been seen as a model for containing the virus in Europe, due in part to an early, aggressive, test and trace policy”, EuroNews says. “But like in most countries across the European Union, an uptick in infections has been observed in recent weeks.”

Around 40% of the new cases in Germany are “being attributed to holidaymakers returning from breaks abroad”, which was also blamed for the original spike in March, The Guardian reports. Most of the remaining 60% are being traced back to parties and family gatherings, the paper adds.

How did Germany handle the first wave?

Germany has received a “great deal of attention for having a lower death rate for Covid-19 than most comparable European countries”, writes Jeremy Rossman, honorary senior lecturer in virology and president of Research-Aid Networks at the University of Kent, on The Conversation.

“The core of the German response matches very well with recommendations from the World Health Organization: prepare, test (isolate and treat) and mitigate the spread of the virus,” he adds.

Since mid-July, Germany has reported 21,000 cases compared to the UK’s 26,500. But it has reported less than a third of the deaths, 129 versus 472.

What is Germany doing to prepare for a second wave?

Increases in cases over the past few weeks have “caused alarm among some virologists and politicians”, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be striking a more optimistic tone, the Independent says. 

“The good news is if we stick to the rules, a lot of public life is possible,” she said on a trip to the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where a local lockdown was introduced last month

“If the numbers go back down, we can open up more. If they don’t, or rise, we must ask what is needed and in any case a further easing of measures cannot take place now.”

On Wednesday, it was reported Germany’s carnival season is expected to be cancelled “owing to fears that the revelry and mass gatherings could contribute to the spread”, The Guardian reports. The ban comes despite “carnival season [being] the most significant cultural tradition of the year” for many Germans.

The country is also expected to extend its furlough scheme to 24 months following the recent spike. “The corona-crisis won’t suddenly disappear in the next few weeks,” said Olaf Scholz, the recently announced Social Democrat candidate for chancellor in next year’s elections.

“Businesses and employees need a clear signal from the government: we’ve got your back for the long haul in this crisis, so that no one is being let go without need,” Scholz added. 

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