Germany’s hopes of relaxing its lockdown restrictions in time for Easter holidays at the start of April are dwindling amid a renewed surge in infection rates on Sunday.
The day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel joins state leaders for coronavirus response talks, political leaders were calling for a halt to lockdown relaxations and a return to a harder lockdown.
Highlighting the problem, Germany’s seven-day incidence of new coronavirus infections passed a critical benchmark that is a factor in the government determining whether tougher lockdown measures are to be reimposed.
The number of new infections per 100,000 residents for the whole of Germany during the past week has risen to 103.9, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases noted on Sunday.
Exceeding the 100 figure often means that coronavirus rules that had been eased up at a local level are tightened once again.
Less than a month after some schools, hairdressers and hardware stores reopened, Saskia Esken, leader of the Social Democrats in government with Merkel’s Christian Democrats, called on Sunday for a return to harsh lockdown.
“As long as testing and vaccinations are not taking effect, we must postpone the planned openings and take another step back into lockdown,” Esken wrote on Twitter.
“We are in a dangerous situation and we have to be careful that a third wave does not turn into a permanent one,” Bavarian premier Markus Soeder said, calling for emergency measures.
However Social Democrat-led states have also floated the idea of allowing “low-contact holidays” in holiday homes in the same region of residence.
On Friday, authorities in Hamburg reversed the loosening of coronavirus containment measures after the city-state’s seven-day incidence rate soared above 100. It is now in a much tougher lockdown.
The nationwide incidence of more than 100 is primarily of symbolic significance at the moment – it does not automatically trigger new measures for all of Germany.
But the figure is sure to play a role in Monday’s talks between Merkel and state premiers, as the country grapples with an accelerating third wave, a slow vaccine roll-out and growing lockdown fatigue.
Within one day, 13,733 new infections were reported as of Sunday – up from the 10,790 reported one week ago.
In addition, 99 new virus-related deaths were reported within 24 hours – up from the 70 reported one week ago.
According to the RKI, 2,659,516 people have been infected in Germany since the start of the pandemic. The actual total number is likely to be much higher, as many infections go undetected.