Germany’s leading public health body has warned that the country’s coronavirus infection rate is in danger of spiralling out of control, amid a significant overnight rise in new cases to 4,000, and predictions the figure could soon reach more than 10,000 a day.
Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said: “It is possible that we will see more than 10,000 cases a day and that the virus will spread uncontrollably.”
Jens Spahn, the health minister, who has been praised so far for his management of the pandemic, with Germany reporting a significantly lower number of cases and a much lower death rate than in most of the rest of Europe, said he was “very concerned”. The rate of new infections increased on Wednesday morning by more than 1,000 on the previous day – a rate not seen since early April. The current number of active cases in Germany is around 31,000.
Spahn called the pandemic a “character test for us as a society”.
“The number of coronavirus cases is rising again, and with that uncertainty is also rising,” he added, speaking at a hastily arranged press conference to address the large overnight rise.
He confirmed that the number of deaths remained relatively low, at 9,578, as did the number of those needing to be treated in intensive care.
But Wieler said it was predictable that, as the virus spread, the number of serious cases and the death rate would rise, with more older people expected to become infected in the coming weeks and months.
He said it was a “fallacy” to believe the illness was not dangerous and appealed to people to avoid closed rooms, and large gatherings.
The rate of infection is rising across almost all regions of Germany. Particular “hot spots” have been identified in several inner city districts of Berlin, as well as areas in northern Germany, the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony.
Inhabitants in risk areas within Germany have been warned they will have to provide negative test results in order to travel to hotels and holiday apartments in other parts of the country for the autumn half-term, which starts in many regions next week.
Martin Kriegel, an expert in aerosol circulation from Berlin’s Technical University, also at the press conference, stressed the importance of airing rooms, which was last week added to the government’s formula for tackling the spread of the illness.
“Ventilation is a very effective preventative measure,” he said, adding that there was a direct correlation between the amount of fresh air in a room, the length of time spent in it as well as the number of people, and the ability of the virus to spread. “But the risk can never be reduced to zero,” he said.