FRANKFURT • Germany’s coronavirus reproduction rate jumped to 2.88 on Sunday, up from 1.79 a day earlier, the health authorities said, a rate showing infections are rising above the level needed to contain the disease over the longer term.
The rise brings with it the possibility of renewed restrictions on activity in Europe’s largest economy – a blow to a country that so far had widely been seen as successful in curbing the coronavirus spread.
To keep the outbreak under control, Germany needs the reproduction rate to fall below one. The rate of 2.88, published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health, means that out of 100 people who contract the virus, a further 288 people will get infected.
Chancellor Angela Merkel had favoured maintaining lockdown measures for longer, but gradually eased restrictions in recent weeks following pressure from regional politicians to reboot the economy.
Already, the country is grappling to get people to adhere to isolation rules in places where they have been imposed. Over the weekend, the authorities in Goettingen needed riot police to enforce quarantine measures.
In North Rhine-Westphalia state, more than 1,300 people working at a slaughterhouse in Guetersloh tested positive for the coronavirus, up from 803 infections last Friday.
As a result, the state has put 7,000 people under quarantine and closed kindergartens and schools close to the abattoir.
“I cannot rule out a broader lockdown,” North Rhine-Westphalia’s premier Armin Laschet told German television ZDF.
Outbreaks in recent weeks have occurred in nursing homes, hospitals, institutions for asylum seekers and refugees, in meat processing plants and logistics companies, among seasonal harvest workers and in connection with religious events, RKI said.
The 2.88 rate is a jump from last Friday’s 1.06, based on RKI’s moving four-day average data, which reflects infection rates of one to two weeks ago. Based on a seven-day average, infection rates have risen to 2.03, RKI said.
The spike in infections is related mainly to local outbreaks including in North Rhine-Westphalia, RKI said. The state was among the regions which had been most vocal in urging Dr Merkel to ease lockdown restrictions.
In total, Germany has reported more than 191,000 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 9,000 deaths, RKI said.
Meanwhile, Mr Jens Weidmann, president of the Bundesbank, told German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the economy had passed the worst of the health crisis and was now expected to recover gradually.