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COVID digest: Germany reports record-high incidence rate

March 16, 2022

The coronavirus seven-day incidence rate in Germany has crossed 1,600 for the first time. Meanwhile, New Zealand is opening its doors to tourists after a long wait. Follow DW for the latest.

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A portable coronavirus testing cabin set up in Berlin, Germany on January 18, 2022
Germany's record high comes as several countries are winding down COVID-19 restrictionsImage: Abdulhamid Hosbas/AA/picture alliance

Germany recorded on Wednesday a record-high seven-day incidence rate, which reflects the average number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past week. 

The new figures come amid discussion about scaling back virus-linked restrictions across the country. 

The figure rose from 1,585 infections per 100,000 people the day before to 1,607 infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday.

The country recorded 262,593 new COVID infections on Wednesday, taking Germany's pandemic caseload to 17,695,210, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. With 269 fatalities recorded, the death toll has risen to 126,142.

Germany has seen a steady rise in infections since the beginning of March, after rules that prevented unvaccinated people from accessing several indoor public spaces were eased.

What's behind vaccine skepticism in Germany?

The German parliament, the Bundestag, is set to adopt a slimmed-down coronavirus control law later this week, before the existing legislation expires on Saturday.

The new rules will significantly reduce restrictions around Germany.

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:

Oceania

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday said most tourists would be allowed into the country as it continues to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

Saying the country was "ready to welcome the world back," Ardern brought the timeline forward from October, which was initially set as the date when tourists from countries like the United States, Canada, Britain and much of Europe could visit New Zealand.

"Closing our border was one of the first actions we took to stop COVID-19 over two years ago, and its reopening will spur our economic recovery throughout the remainder of the year," she said.

Tourists from Australia will be able to visit New Zealand from April 12, whereas tourists from other visa-waiver countries can visit from May 1. However, tourists from non-waiver countries like India and China will need to wait longer, unless they have valid visitor visas.

Asia

The pandemic pushed 4.7 million more people into extreme poverty in Southeast Asia last year, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank. 

"For 2021, another 4.7 million people fell below the extreme poverty threshold compared to the 2020 no-COVID-19 poverty baseline," the Manila-based bank said in the report. The threshold is currently those living on less than $1.90 (€1.73) per day.

The report added that progress made before the pandemic was lost, as poverty increased with the loss of 9.3 million jobs in 2021.

Japan is set to lift COVID-19 restrictions in Tokyo and 17 other prefectures as a wave of infections caused by the omicron variant shows signs of receding. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to announce the lifting of curbs starting March 21, in addition to the easing of border measures, during an address on Wednesday.

International students pressure Japan to let them in

South Korea has hit a record of 400,741 new cases on Wednesday as the country struggles to contain an omicron-fueled wave of infections. This is the highest daily figure recorded since the beginning of the pandemic two years ago, authorities said.

Vietnam has ended its quarantine requirements for international travelers on Wednesday, as the country looks to rebuild its economy after two years of restrictions. Tourists can enter the country with a negative COVID-19 test, Vietnam's health ministry said in a statement.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Wednesday announced that there were no plans to further tighten coronavirus restrictions.

Pakistan has lifted all measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, with the minister responsible for the country's pandemic response, Asad Umar, saying that there was a sharp decline in new cases and the lowest number of patients in intensive care since October.

The move means that people may now attend social and religious gatherings and eat indoors at restaurants, and markets no longer have to restrict their opening hours.

The Health Ministry said at least four COVID-19 related deaths and 493 new cases of infection had been reported in the last 24 hours. Pakistan has so far registered 1,520,120 infections and 30,317 deaths from or with COVID-19.

Coronavirus infections soar again in China

Americas

The United States' second gentleman Doug Emhoff has tested positive for coronavirus, the White House said on Tuesday. Vice President Kamala Harris has tested negative but will be curtailing her schedule "out of an abundance of caution," her spokesperson Sabrina Singh said.

In a tweet late Tuesday, Harris said: "Doug is doing fine and we are grateful to be vaccinated and boosted." She added, "I have tested negative and will continue to test."

Earlier in the day, President Joe Biden and the vice president appeared together and met lawmakers at an event marking the signing of a $1.5 trillion government funding measure.

Europe

The United Kingdom is ending a number of testing and monitoing programs for COVID-19 after lifting almost all pandemic measures last month, with officials saying that future coronavirus waves will be lessened by high vaccination rates.

A number of scientists have, however, voiced dismay at the move, saying it will make it more difficult to track the virus and detect new variants of concern amid warnings that the next one could arise by May. 

Long COVID in children

tj,see/fb (Reuters, AP, AFP)