The number of German coronavirus infections seems to be heading lower but the decline is not yet deep enough to suggest that the third wave of the pandemic has been broken, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.
“The figures must not only stagnate, they must go down,” Spahn told a news conference, adding that an accelerated vaccination campaign was helping but that there were still too many people being treated in intensive care wards.
Germany’s seven-day average of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people fell on Thursday for the third day in a row to 155 – its lowest level in two weeks, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.
The incidence figure – a key metric used by the German government to determine when to tighten or ease lockdowns – hit 169 on Monday, but has fallen each day since then. The last time it was under 160 was on April 14, when the incidence was 153.
Germany has been struggling to contain a third wave of infections, with efforts complicated by the more contagious B117 variant, which was first identified in Britain, and a relatively slow start to its national vaccination campaign.
Parts of Germany imposed tougher lockdown rules last weekend after Chancellor Angela Merkel drew up legislation to give the federal government more powers after some of the 16 federal states refused stricter measures.
The new law enables the government to impose curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in districts where cases exceed 100 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days. The rules also include stricter limits on private gatherings and shopping.
Schools will have to close and return to online lessons if cases reach 165 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days.
If the European Union’s watchdog approves COVID-19 vaccines for children, Germany will be able to vaccinate under 12-year-olds during the summer holidays at the latest, Spahn said.
The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 24,736 on Thursday – almost 5,000 fewer than those recorded a week ago – bringing Germany’s total caseload since the start of the pandemic to 3,357,268.
The total COVID-19 death toll rose by 264 to 82,544.