Berlin, March 5 : Despite the ongoing lockdown, new Covid-19 infections in Germany were again slightly above previous week’s level as the country registered 11,912 infections within one day, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced.
Due to rising infections and an increasing share of Covid-19 variants, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the federal states agreed on Wednesday that the lockdown would be extended until at least March 28. At the same time, gradual openings were implemented in a five-step strategy, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.
After schools and hairdressers were opened in the beginning of March, a second step would follow next week as bookstores, flower stores and garden centers in Germany would be allowed to open with hygiene requirement and customer restrictions, the government noted.
Merkel said that it was now a matter of “taking the next steps wisely.” In Europe, there were many examples of a dramatic third Covid-19 wave “and this danger also exists for us,” said Merkel when announcing the new regulations during a press conference on Wednesday.
Regulations for private meetings were also relaxed and one household would now be allowed to meet with another household, limited to a maximum of five people, according to the government.
The 7-day incidence plays an important role in the country’s 5-step opening strategy. If the 7-day incidence in a state or region exceeded 100, contact restriction would be tightened again, according to the German government.
According to the RKI, the federal government agency for disease control and prevention, the nationwide average of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants rose slightly to 64.7 on Thursday.
Merkel stressed that “the spring of 2021 will be different from the spring a year ago” because COVID-19 vaccines and a range of tests were now available as “two helpers” against the virus.
The German federal and state governments agreed to ramp up the country’s vaccination campaign. In late March, Covid-19 vaccinations would also be offered by general practitioners (GPs), in a bid to double the weekly Covid-19 vaccination capacity. Currently, up to 200,000 vaccinations are carried out daily.
More than two months after the start of the coronavirus vaccination program in Germany, over 2.27 million people had received the second vaccination as of Wednesday, bringing the country’s vaccination rate to 2.7 per cent, according to the RKI.
Germany also seeks to secure the easing of restrictions with rapid and self tests. Every citizen should have the possibility to get a Covid-19 test once a week. Merkel said that there were “justified hopes” that Germany was on the threshold of a new phase of the pandemic.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 258 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide — 76 of them in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on Tuesday.