Germany records its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since March

Germany records its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since March 11 – 679 – and just 43 deaths while R rate falls to 0.74

  • Confirmed cases rose from 162,496 to 163,175, a record low increase of 0.4%
  • The 43 new coronavirus deaths bring Germany’s total from 6,649 to 6,692 
  • Germany regards an R rate below 1.0 as key sign that epidemic is under control
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Germany has recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since March 11 after only 679 people were added to the tally today. 

The increase from 162,496 to 163,175 confirmed cases is a rise of just 0.4 per cent, possibly influenced by a long May Day weekend. 

The daily death toll was only 43, the fewest since March 25, bringing the total number in Germany from 6,649 to 6,692. 

Meanwhile, the closely-watched R rate fell to 0.74 yesterday, meaning that one virus patient is infecting another 0.74 people on average. 

Germany’s daily number of coronavirus cases, shown on this graph, fell to just 679 today – the lowest figure since March 11 

The daily number of deaths was below 100 for the third day running today, falling to 43 – its lowest since March 24 

Germany has identified an R rate below 1.0 as the key indicator of whether the epidemic is under control, and therefore whether restrictions can be eased. 

Angela Merkel has warned that even a small increase above 1.0 could leave Germany’s hospitals overwhelmed as soon as this summer. 

There was some concern last week when the rate momentarily rose back to 1.0, but it has since fallen again and yesterday dropped from 0.78 to 0.74. 

The figure means that 100 virus patients will typically infect another 74 people between them, causing the number of cases to fall over time. 

The R rate is calculated by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases, which gathers the daily coronavirus figures.  

For any given day, the R rate is defined as the number of new cases divided by the same figure four days earlier. 

The RKI warns that its figures are based on statistical modelling and not merely the official figures, which can be erratic at weekends.  

‘If every case leads to two more cases on average (R=2), then the number of new infections will double,’ the RKI explains. 

‘When R=0.5, they will halve. We can turn that calculation around to work out R from the number of confirmed coronavirus cases.’

Health officials say the figure was around 3.0 at the start of March, but had stabilised at around 1.0 by around March 22. 

It remained below the 1.0 threshold for most of April as Germany imposed a nationwide lockdown.   

‘One reason why the number of new infections fell only relatively slowly despite the severe restrictions is that the virus started spreading more strongly among older people from March 18 onwards, and we saw more outbreaks in care homes and hospitals,’ the RKI says. 

‘Another aspect is that the testing capacity in Germany has significantly increased, and because of better testing a larger share of infections have become visible. 

‘This effect and the resulting increase in confirmed cases can mean that the current R figure is slightly overstating the real picture. 

‘Adjusting it for the higher test numbers is not a simple task, because there are no comprehensive figures for the different testing dates.’ 

Pupils sit at a safe distance at a primary school in Berlin today, with hundreds of thousands of children returning to classrooms across Germany 

Doctors and nurses in protective gear speak to a coronavirus patient at an intensive care unit in Mühldorf am Inn in southern Germany last week

There have been some signs of scepticism about the RKI’s figures, including in hard-hit Bavaria where officials said their rate was only 0.57 when the RKI’s figure was 1.0. 

Bavaria – the state with most direct links to Italy – accounts for 42,997 of Germany’s 163,175 cases, while neighbouring Baden-Wuerttemberg has another 32,411. 

Berlin has recorded only 6,010 cases and 154 deaths, and the eastern states in general have been less hard hit than the more economically successful west. 

The nationwide tally of 679 new cases is the third consecutive day that the figure has been below 1,000, where it had not previously been since March 14. 

Similarly, the death toll has been below 100 for three consecutive days after last being there on April 6.  

With the R rate now below one, Germany has started easing some restrictions – with hundreds of thousands of older children returning to school today. 

There are proposals to resume the Bundesliga football season as early as mid-May, backed by Germany’s interior minister Horst Seehofer. 

But he said footballers would not have any special testing privileges compared to the rest of the population, with clubs calling for frequent tests on their players.  

Angela Merkel has warned against a lurch back to normality and ministers have signalled that measures would need to be toughened again if cases rise.    

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