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Germany downgrades its COVID risk status

June 1, 2021

But Health Minister Jens Spahn cautioned that "we are still in the middle of a pandemic," despite declining case numbers and vaccination progress.

Deutschland Düsseldorf | Coronavirus-Lockerungen
Many restrictions have been lifted in various cities as COVID cases decrease in GermanyImage: Ying Tang/NurPhoto/picture alliance

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reduced Germany's coronavirus risk status from "very high" to "high" on Tuesday.

"The situation is getting better, we are getting noticeably better," Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said at a press conference together with RKI chief Lothar Wieler in the capital Berlin.

Germany's risk status was reduced as the country's nationwide seven-day incidence remained at just over 35 cases per 100,000 people per week.

A seven-day incidence rate of 50 is Germany's benchmark, determing when widespread reopenings can begin to take place.

A cautious mood

"We have grounds for optimism," Spahn said, pointing to the freeing-up of intensive care beds in hospitals as well as the falling caseloads.

But he also cautioned that Germany was "still in the middle of a pandemic" despite the falling infection rates.

He noted that in the UK, case numbers were on the rise once again due to virus variants, despite a fast vaccination rollout.

A health worker takes care of a Covid-19 patient in a Covid-19 intensive care unit
A falling caseload has reduced the pressure on Germany's intensive care unitsImage: Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

Vaccine rollout speeds up

After an initially slow start due to delivery hold-ups, Spahn told the news conference that providing nothing changes, by the middle of July "around 80 to 90% of all people who want to get vaccinated will be offered one."

He said this figure was true when taking into account the currently agreed-upon number of vaccines set to be delivered. It does not include deliveries of Johnson & Johnson-manufactured coronavirus vaccines.The company has pushed back the rollout of its single-dose vaccine in Europe amid concerns over extremely rare blood clots.

Meanwhile, the RKI's Wieler said that higher vaccination rates were necessary if more restrictions were to be lifted. "Get vaccinated, whenever there's a chance," Wieler stressed.

Around 18% of the population in Germany is now completely vaccinated but that figure needed to reach around 80% for Germans to see most restrictions removed, Wieler said.

Germany's falling caseload

The announcement came a day after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the special powers that grant the federal government the ability to impose coronavirus restrictions nationwide can come to an end in June as planned.

The Infectious Diseases Protection Act was amended in April to include an "emergency brake" obliging Germany's 16 states to enforce uniform restrictions in areas where COVID-19 infection rates surpass 100 cases per 100,000 people per week. 

The RKI reported 1,785 new cases and 153 deaths on Tuesday.

kmm/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)