Germany's third wave of Covid-19 'appears to have broken'

Health Minister Jens Spahn cautions against lifting restrictions too early

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Germany is showing early signs of halting a third wave of Covid-19 driven by the more contagious variant of the virus first identified in the UK.

Announcing the positive news on Friday, Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned against lifting restrictions too quickly.

"The third wave appears to have broken," he said.

"The infection figures are dropping again, but we are still at a high level. They are not yet falling everywhere at the same rate, but they are falling.”

The country reported 18,485 new infections in the past 24 hours, compared with 27,543 cases on the same day two weeks ago, the Robert Koch Institute said.

The number of new infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days stood at 125.7 - suggesting the country has some way to go before restrictions can be eased.

Under national virus measures introduced in April, areas with a case rate below 100 are allowed to begin easing some restrictions.

If the case rate is higher than 100, an “emergency brake” is applied, imposing restrictions on how many people can gather and overnight curfews.

Mr Spahn warned that easing curbs across the board "would only help the virus".

"In this phase of the pandemic, it is really a matter of not gambling away what has been achieved," he said.

German MPs on Friday approved a new law that lifts some curbs for vaccinated people and those who have recovered from the disease.

BERLIN, GERMANY - MAY 05: Shoppers wait to enter a clothing store during the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic on May 05, 2021 in Berlin, Germany. Germany's federal government is considering measures to allow people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who have recovered from the illness a greater degree of freedom, including being allowed to enter shops without having to show proof of a negative Covid test. While the pandemic is continuing in Germany, infection rates are coming down and the numbers of vaccinations are picking up pace, giving many hope that a return to normalcy is getting closer. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Germany appears to be breaking the third wave of Covid-19 infection, the country's health minister suggested. Getty Images 

From Sunday, they will no longer have to abide by curfews or limits on social contacts.

Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht called the move "a very important step towards more normality".

But Berlin mayor Michael Mueller said it was going to be difficult to check the curbs are lifted only for those who fall under these categories.

Despite his concerns, he acknowledged the plan “was about fundamental rights, and they can only be restricted when there is an urgent need to do so".

After a slow start, Germany began accelerating its vaccination campaign in April and last week gave the shot to more than one million people in one day.  By Friday, 31.5 per cent of the population had received at least one vaccination.

The country recently made the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca available to all age groups after it was first restricted to over-60s.

The European medicines regulator on Friday opened an investigation into whether vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna could be linked to rare blood clots.

The regulator last month linked two other EU-approved vaccines, those made by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, to rare but occasionally fatal clots.

However, it continued to stress that the benefits of the vaccines outweighed the risks of succumbing to Covid-19.

The UK medicines regulator now advises that people under 40 be given an alternative vaccine to the one developed by AstraZeneca.

The change reflects the availability of other vaccines as well as the relatively low levels of Covid-19 in Britain.

June Raine, the head of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, said the benefits of receiving the shot for older people outweighed the potential risk posed by blood clots, so the AstraZeneca drug was considered safe for them.

But she said the risk-benefit analysis was “more finely balanced” for younger people, who are less likely to succumb to serious illness from the virus.

Meanwhile, a surge in travel is expected across Spain from Sunday as the country prepares to end a state of emergency.

Declared in October as Covid-19 infections surged, the emergency decree has provided regional authorities - which are in charge of health care - a legal framework to enforce night-time curfews and other restrictions, including a ban on non-essential travel between regions.

But once the emergency situation ends on Sunday, regional governments will need local court approval to impose restrictions on social life, such as caps on the size of home gatherings.

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