Coronavirus: fears grow for second outbreak in Germany

German ‘R’ rate of virus reproduction jumps far above 1 to 2.88 after weeks of decline

epa08497272 A handout photo made available by the German armed forces (Bundeswehr) shows soldiers taking coronavirus tests from workers at the Toennies meat factory in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck, western Germany, 19 June 2020 (issued 20 June 2020). According to media reports, more than 800 Toennies workers at the Rheda-Wiedenbrueck plant – Europe's largest slaughterhouse – have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, making it one of the largest clusters of the ongoing pandemic detected so far in the country.  EPA/KORTE / BUNDESWEHR / HANDOUT  HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES
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Germany reported a sudden and significant rise in coronavirus infections, increasing fears of a second outbreak.

The news came as the World Health Organisation on Sunday said more than 183,000 people were infected in the highest daily rise.

Germany has experienced a rise of the “R” virus reproduction rate, which has reached 2.88 after weeks of decline. In Britain, the R rate is between 0.7 and 0.9.

Concerns for a second wave in Europe grew as Germany was seen as having tackled Covid-19 most effectively. While other European countries such as France, Britain and Italy have each suffered high death tolls – about 30,000 or more – Germany’s has remained below 9,000.

Early and effective lockdown measures as well as an efficient contact tracing system led to low infection rates.

But fears that the country with Europe’s largest economy will have to go into a second lockdown have been raised after the Robert Koch Institute for public health in Berlin said the rate had gone up from 1.06 on Friday, when 770 became infected, to 2.88 on Sunday.

This meant that for every 100 people infected another 288 were likely to have the virus passed to them. To contain the illness, a figure of less than 1 was required.

The sudden spike was in part blamed on an outbreak at a meat processing factory in North Rhine-Westphalia. More than 1,300 employees at Tonnies meat factory have tested positive over the past week.

Armin Laschet, the regional leader, told Die Welt newspaper that a nationwide lockdown could "not to be ruled out at the moment". The number of contact tracing teams in the area was to be increased from 32 on Monday.

Elsewhere in Germany, outbreaks were reported in hospitals and nursing homes, asylum seeker centres, among those harvesting crops and at religious and family gatherings. The country has counted 191,000 infections and 8,962 deaths from Covid-19.

In the past week, the number of people suffering from the disease increased by more than 1,000.

Germany’s R rate rise came after Nato chiefs announced a new action plan to contain a potential second wave with a major stockpile of medicine and protective equipment.

With no vaccine likely until next year, the disease is continuing to ravage countries.

The leading virus expert, Professor Peter Piot of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, told the BBC: “The good news is that in many countries including the UK, we’ve been able to bring down the spread. The bad news is that the virus has not gone away … It is spreading at an increased pace, particularly in the Americas.”

The greatest daily global tally came in Brazil on Sunday with 54,771 new infections, followed by the United States with 36,617. India reported 15,400 new cases.

Asked about the possibility of a second wave, Prof Piot said: “What is going to happen nearly certainly is a so-called second wave of outbreaks. I don’t think and I hope it is not going to be a tsunami. It won’t take us by surprise, we know much better what to do.”