Merkel on the brink as Germany sees sudden rise in coronavirus cases amid lockdown ease

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the reproduction rate – the figure showing the number of people a confirmed patient infects – is now above 1.The r rate being above 1 means the spread is accelerating.

The news comes as thousands of Germans protested on Saturday demanding a total end to the lockdown.

Chancellor Angela Merkel revealed a widespread ease of lockdown restrictions on Wednesday following discussions with the leaders of the country’s 16 states.

All shops are allowed to reopen, pupils will gradually return to class and the Bundesliga – Germany’s top football league – will be back as soon as next weekend.

But on Saturday people called for restrictions to be eased even faster.

Ms Merkel said: “We have achieved the goal of slowing the spread of the virus…because our citizens have behaved responsibly and saved the lives of others.”

However, she warned that “the very first phase of the pandemic is over, but we are still at the overall beginning of the pandemic, and we still have a long fight against the virus ahead of us”.

Germany has the seventh-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

Latest RKI data on Sunday revealed the number of infections has reached 169,218, as well as a death toll of 7,395.

The R rate is one of the indicators weighed in when measuring the impact of the pandemic.

The other measurements taken into account are the severity of symptoms and the number of cases.

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The report from the public health agency released on Saturday said the reproduction rate was estimated at 1.1, while on Sunday the number increased to 1.13.

The number had previously been below 1 for most of the last three weeks.

The agency said this evaluation involved “a degree of uncertainty”, and the rate would have to be tracked closely over the coming days

It was not yet possible to assess “whether the decreasing trend in the number of incident cases observed over the past few weeks will continue or whether case numbers will again increase”, it added.

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Germany has resorted to mass testing and strip lockdown measures to keep the effects of the pandemic under control and the death toll lower than other European countries.

The chancellor invoked an “emergency brake”, asking local governments to reinstate restrictions if cases rise above a threshold of 50 per 100,000 people.

Outbreaks at meat processing plants in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have already reportedly gone over that limit, and district officials had to respond accordingly.

And one district in the state of Thuringia reportedly recorded more than 80 infections per 100,000 people, thought to be due to outbreaks at care facilities.

While some believe that the country is lifting its restrictions too soon, others in Germany are protesting against the continued lockdown.

Small groups of people have protested the lockdown restrictions in recent weeks but on Saturday the number of demonstrators rose to thousands who gathered in cities across the country – including Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich and Stuttgart.

Police forced in Berlin arrested about 30 people outside the Reichstag on Saturday for not flowing social distancing guidance.

Right-wing groups and conspiracy theorists also joined some of the protests.

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