BERLIN (Reuters) – Coronavirus infections are rising exponentially in Germany, an expert at the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said on Tuesday, putting at risk plans to lift the lockdown and revive the economy.
The number of cases per 100,000 reported on Tuesday was 83.7, up from 68 a week ago, and the RKI has said that metric could reach 200 by the middle of next month.
Germany is definitely in a third wave of the pandemic, driven by the fact it has loosened restrictions in recent weeks just as a more transmissible variant has spread, Dirk Brockmann, an epidemiologist at the RKI, told Germany’s ARD television.
“It has been totally irrational to loosen up here. It is just fueling this exponential growth,” he said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders agreed a phased easing of curbs earlier this month along with an “emergency brake” to let authorities reimpose restrictions if case numbers rise above 100 per 100,000 on three consecutive days.
They are due to meet again on March 22 to discuss whether to allow any further relaxation of the rules.
The state government in the city of Berlin decided on Tuesday to put on hold any more easing, such as allowing restaurants or cinemas to open, the Tagesspiegel newspaper reported.
Germany’s decision on Monday to suspend AstraZeneca’s vaccine could delay progress in reaching herd immunity and postpone an economic recovery in the second quarter, analysts said.
The decision follows seven cases of thrombosis in Germany, including three deaths, and delivers a major setback to the country’s drive to speed up its sluggish vaccination campaign.
A planned meeting between Merkel and state leaders on Wednesday to discuss using family doctors to administer COVID-19 vaccines has been postponed until after the European Medicines Agency completes its review into the AstraZeneca shot.
AstraZeneca has said an analysis of its safety data covering reported cases from over 17 million vaccine doses given had shown no evidence of an increased risk of pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis or low levels of platelets.
The RKI’s Brockmann noted that 1,000 people in a million had died of COVID-19, compared to possibly 1 in a million from complications associated with the vaccine.
“In the risk groups, the risk of dying of COVID is much, much higher. That means it is probably 100,000 times more likely to die of COVID than because of an AstraZeneca vaccine,” he said.
(Reporting by Emma Thomasson and Caroline Copley, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Gareth Jones)