Coronavirus: Fears of second wave in Germany as ‘R’ number jumps to 2.88 in two days

Local outbreaks in meatpacking plants and nursing homes are ‘strong influence’ on reproduction number, says Robert Koch Institute

Kate Ng
Sunday 21 June 2020 18:22
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Coronavirus in numbers

Germany’s reproduction rate of Covid-19 has spiked from 1.06 to 2.88 in the span of two days following a string of localised outbreaks, prompting concerns over a second wave of the virus.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Saturday the R number jumped to 1.79 on Saturday and 2.88 on Sunday, far higher than what is needed to contain the outbreak over a longer period of time.

An R number of 2.88 means that every 100 people who contract the virus would infect, on average, 288 more people. To contain the virus, a number lower than 1 is needed.

The institute attributed the rise to a number of local outbreaks that have been traced back to places with large numbers of people, such as meatpacking plants and logistics centres, as well as refugee shelters. Outbreaks have also been linked to church services and family parties.

“Since case numbers in Germany are generally low, these outbreaks have a relatively strong influence on the value of the reproduction number,” said the institute.

“Further developments need to be monitored closely during the upcoming days, especially in regard to whether case numbers are increasing outside of outbreak contexts.”

When smoothed for short-term effects, RKI estimated the 7-day moving average of Germany’s reproduction rate reached 2.03, up from 1.17 on Friday.

A further 687 cases were confirmed in Sunday’s daily update, bringing the total across the whole country to 189,822. No further deaths were reported and the toll currently stands at 8,822.

It comes after more than 1,300 workers at a meat processing plant in northwestern Germany tested positive for coronavirus.

The state premier of North Rhine Westphalia region, Armin Laschet, told a news conference on Sunday that although authorities “cannot rule our a comprehensive lockdown”, the current outbreak is localised to the plant and they will “make use of other, more targeted measures”.

According to Deutsche Welle, the plant has been closed and schools and daycare centres in the area have also been ordered to shut again.

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Germany’s management of the coronavirus crisis has been among the most successful in Europe, but the country has seen repeated outbreaks in slaughterhouses, whose employees are often migrants living in crowded company-provided accommodation.

Germany eased its lockdown restrictions in mid-May following pressure from state premiers and nationwide protests. Angela Merkel has been in favour of maintaining lockdown discipline for longer, urging people to continue maintaining social distancing despite changes to the restrictions.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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