© Reuters. General view of a quarantined apartment block in the Berlin district of Neukoelln in Berlin
FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The reproduction rate of coronaviruses in Germany rose from 1.79 the day before to 2.88 on Sunday. According to health authorities, the infection rate rises above the level required to contain the disease in the longer term.
The increase brings with it the opportunity to once again limit activity in Europe's largest economy – a blow to a country that has been generally considered successful so far to curb the spread of the coronavirus and keep the death toll relatively low.
In order to keep the pandemic under control, the reproductive rate in Germany has to fall below one. The rate of 2.88 published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health means that every 100 people who become infected with the virus also infect 288 people.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had preferred to keep the blocking measures longer, but to gradually ease the restrictions in recent weeks after regional politicians put pressure on the economy to restart.
The country is already struggling to get people to follow isolation rules in places where they have been imposed. At the weekend, the authorities in Göttingen needed riot police to enforce quarantine measures.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, more than 1,300 people who worked in a slaughterhouse in Guetersloh were tested positive for coronavirus out of 803 infections on Friday.
As a result, North Rhine-Westphalia has quarantined 7,000 people and closed kindergartens and schools near the Abbatoir.
"I cannot rule out a broader ban," North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Armin Laschet told German television ZDF on Sunday.
In the past few weeks, outbreaks have occurred in nursing homes, hospitals, facilities for asylum seekers and refugees, in meat processing plants and logistics companies, among seasonal workers and in connection with religious events, RKI said.
The rate of 2.88 is a jump of 1.06 on Friday, based on RKI's 4-day moving average data that reflects infection rates one to two weeks ago.
Based on a 7-day average, infection rates rose to 2.03, RKI said, adding that an accurate measurement for long-term patterns will take a few days.
The increase in infections is mainly due to local outbreaks, including in North Rhine-Westphalia, RKI said. North Rhine-Westphalia was one of the regions in which Merkel was most urgently asked to relax the restrictions on blocking.
A high incidence rate of 7 days was observed in the cities of Guetersloh and Warendorf, North Rhine-Westphalia. Further outbreaks were found in the cities of Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt and the Berlin district of Neukoelln, said RKI.
In total, Germany reported 189,822 laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases and 8,882 COVID-19 deaths were reported, RKI said.
In an interview published on Sunday, Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann told the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the economy had weathered the worst crisis of the outbreak of the corona virus and should now gradually recover.