Germany’s New Virus Cases Near 3-Week Low as Restrictions Eased

(Bloomberg) —

The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany stayed close to a three-week low as the country begins gradually lifting pandemic-related lockdown measures.

There were 1,388 new cases in the 24 hours through Wednesday morning, bringing the total to 148,453, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fatalities rose by 224, the most in four days, to 5,086. The death rate is now at 3.4%, while the number of people who have recovered rose to almost 100,000, the most of any nation.

Governments across Europe have started taking initial steps toward reopening their economies, with Germany among the first to cautiously revive business activity this week. Smaller shops can start serving customers again, and schools will gradually reopen with some students taking exams allowed to return.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that too hasty an easing may prompt a second outbreak that requires further measures to contain transmission. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday that it’s too early to decide on relaxing travel restrictions, and Munich canceled the Oktoberfest beer festival for the first time since World War II.

“We are living in different times, and living with corona means living carefully,” Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said.

Merkel has identified the reproduction factor — known by epidemiologists as R-naught — as a means of gauging how successfully countries have kept the virus in check and how much stress it could place on health services.

Germany’s R0 was unchanged at 0.9 on Tuesday, according to the latest situation report from the country’s public health authority. That means that each person with the virus infects an average of 0.9 other people.

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