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Germany coronavirus threat raised to 'high' alert

March 17, 2020

The Robert Koch Institute has changed its COVID-19 threat risk for Germany from "moderate" to "high." It said the pandemic and some imposed restrictions could last two years.

Person putting surgical gloves on
Image: picture-alliance/KEYSTONE/E. Leanza

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's disease control and prevention agency, adjusted on Tuesday its coronavirus threat risk for the country from "moderate" to "high." 

Robert Koch Chief Lothar Wieler said the risk adjustment is based on the continual increase in new infections, along with warning signs from hospitals and public health facilities.

The RKI also warned that an increasing number of COVID-19 infections cannot be traced back to known cases.

Germany currently has over 9,200 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 24 deaths.

Could 'last two years'

The RKI warned that the coronavirus pandemic could last two years, as pandemics tend to run their course in waves.

The duration of the pandemic also depends on the speed of vaccine production, along with how many people become infected, recover and develop immunity to SARS CoV 2, the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Wieler added that – in an "extreme situation" –  some of the restrictions enacted by countries to contain the virus would also have to stay in place for this duration.

Numbers to 'triple'

The German Hospital Federation (DKG) said around 500 people in the country are currently undergoing hospital treatment for symptoms caused by COVID-19.

DKG President Gerald Gass told German media group Funke that this number is expected to triple in the coming days. According to Gass, Germany's hospitals could still cope with this increase.

Germans stranded abroad

The country stepped up measures against travel on Tuesday by also issuing a global travel warning in response to the outbreak.

The German government warned all citizens that leaving the country currently presents a threat to life. Only China's Hubei region – where COVID-19 originated – had issued a similar warning.

Graphic explaining when to wash your hands

On Sunday, the German Foreign Ministry warned people should refrain from any non-essential travel.

German travelers have encountered difficulties returning home as other European countries including France and Spain imposed travel restrictions.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced on Tuesday that nearly €50 million ($55 million) would be spent on repatriation flights for the thousands of German nationals abroad.

Germany has also shut down schools across most of the country, tightened border controls and imposed a number of restrictions on public and social spaces. Companies in Germany are being urged to offer employees remote work.

mvb/ng (dpa, AFP)

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