Germany: Coronavirus lockdown in Gütersloh district extended | News | DW | 29.06.2020

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Germany: Coronavirus lockdown in Gütersloh district extended

The community at the center of a COVID-19 outbreak at a German meat-processing plant will remain on lockdown as contagion rates remain high, officials said. Authorities are still confident they can contain the spread.

The western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) on Monday lifted the lockdown on the community of Warendorf, but it has extended the confinement in neighboring Gütersloh for an additional week. 

Both communities had been locked down since last week, after they became the center of a coronavirus outbreak that began when a meat-processing plant registered some 1,500 coronavirus infections. 

The outbreak put a spotlight on Germany's meat industry and sparked a national conversation over how to contain localized outbreaks. 

Laschet: Containment measures worked

A recent mass testing of nearly 40,000 people in the two districts showed that community spread had taken place in Gütersloh.Neighboring Warendorf, however, did not share the trend and showed a much slower rate of contagion. 

In Gütersloh, some 112 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants were reported within the past seven days. This was well above the critical benchmark of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants recommended by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's official health authority for the epidemic.

Read more: Germany: Former abattoir worker 'heard colleagues crying at night'

Minister of Health in NRW Karl-Josef Laumann warned that in the case of Gütersloh: "We cannot be certain at this time, that the outbreak can be contained." For that reason, authorities chose to extend the lockdown, adding that they were closely monitoring the situation.

But state premier Armin Laschet said he was "confident" that things were moving in a positive direction. The rapid containment measures put in place by NRW have made it possible to "limit the infection locally and prevent it from spreading to the population," Laschet added.

Bavaria plans mass testing

As a result of the NRW outbreak, other states are exploring ways to avert a possible outbreak within their communities. 

The southern state of Bavaria, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases, announced a plan that goes as far as making testing universal. 

Under the plan, anyone in Bavaria will have the opportunity to test themselves for coronavirus, even without symptoms, free of charge.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn backed the impetus for more testing. But he cautioned against Bavaria's measure, saying it could lead to "a false sense of security."

The health minister said that testing should be targeted and localized, saying the example of Gütersloh should be the blueprint for future outbreaks.

jcg/rs (dpa, AFP)