German experts say coronavirus will spread to December levels again

Experts in Germany believe coronavirus infections in the country will soon reach the same high levels as before Christmas, as the more contagious variants of the virus continue to spread.

On Saturday, the so-called incidence rate of infections per 100,000 people in one week climbed by 1.2 points to 63.8. It had previously sunk to 57.4 in mid-February, from a record of 197.6 two days before Christmas.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control reported 9,762 new infections and 369 deaths on Saturday.

Thorsten Lehr, an expert in coronavirus forecasts, said a coming third wave could be just as bad as the second.

“I believe that we will have conditions like before Christmas,” Lehr of Saarland University told dpa, adding that the incidence rate could reach around 200 again in April.

Lehr said this was due to increased social contacts as well as the spread of the coronavirus variant first seen in Britain. Laboratories have said around one third of positive cases are now of that variant.

The variant is considered to be 35 per cent more contagious and, according to a survey of recent British studies, could also be 40 to 60 per cent more deadly.

According to Lehr, more than 90 per cent of cases would be of the British variant in the future, as further relaxations of the restrictions are due on March 7, after schools gradually reopened this month.

The government aims to extend travel restrictions for areas with virus variants until March 17, according to information by the Funke media group.

At present, only German residents and certain essential workers can enter the country from areas considered high-risk for variants, leading to reinforced controls on the Czech and Austrian borders. These measures were originally due to expire next week.

From Monday, people entering Germany are also to receive an automated text message with information about coronavirus rules, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Germans are ready to return to normal despite the rising infection numbers, with a large majority in favour of a Covid-19 vaccination passport that would allow them to visit theatres, gyms, sporting events or even facilitate travel.

According to a survey conducted by pollsters YouGov on behalf of dpa, 16 per cent are in favour of introducing such a “green passport” immediately, following the example of Israel.

A further 44 per cent think it should wait until all people in Germany have been offered a vaccination, which according to current plans should be the case by September 21.

Only 35 per cent fundamentally oppose the introduction of a passport that would give vaccinated people advantages over non-vaccinated people.

Israel introduced its “green passport” last Sunday, granting numerous benefits to those who have recovered or have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Restrictions were also eased for the non-vaccinated, but they were given back significantly fewer freedoms.

The heads of state and government of the European Union agreed on Thursday that a European vaccination passport should be developed within the next three months. However, it is still unclear what alleviations this will entail.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has shown herself open in principle to granting benefits to vaccinated people, but only at a later date.

“When we have made a vaccination offer to enough people and some of them refuse to be vaccinated, we will have to consider whether there should be openings and access only for vaccinated people in certain areas,” Merkel said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published on Thursday.

Critics consider such an approach to be compulsory vaccination through the back door.

The data used is based on an online survey by YouGov Deutschland, in which 2,030 people took part between February 24-26. The results were weighted and are representative of the German population aged 18 and over.

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