First 50, then 35, now 100: In the past few weeks, the federal and state governments have always set new limit values at which easing should be possible. The virologist Isabelle Eckerle from the University of Geneva compared the back and forth with someone who actually wants to lose weight, but immediately rewards himself with a giant pizza for every pound lost and is then amazed that the weight loss does not work.
She is not the only expert who looks to the coming weeks with concern. Due to the agreed gradual easing and the spreading mutant B.1.1.7, the number of new infections in Germany is likely to rise again. The decisive question will now be what rapid tests and vaccinations can do to counter this.
Most recently, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded an increase in reported new infections, but a low in deaths. The fact that fewer Covid 19 deaths are reported could already be a success of the vaccinations. The incidence among those over 80 has recently declined, probably because many seniors are protected against Covid 19 disease with the vaccination.
However, this does not indicate a reduced incidence of infections – on the contrary. Important parameters give clear indications of a new increase.
So on Monday with 5011 Noticeably more new corona infections reported than on Monday last week (4732).
The number of inside seven days reported new infections per 100,000 inhabitants (Seven-day incidence) was on Monday, according to the RKI nationwide at 68 – and thus higher than the day before (66.1). The last time there was such a value was on February 10th, almost four weeks ago. After that, the incidence fell for a few days, reaching a low of 56.8 on February 19. Since then, the trend has been noticeably increasing again.
The trend is confirmed by the development of the so-called Reproduction number: The nationwide seven-day R-value given in the evening management report of the RKI was in the past two weeks (since February 22nd) always well above 0.9 and on the majority of days above 1. This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect more than 100 other people – a value consistently above 1 is therefore a signal for an increase in the number of infections.
If the trend continues, the seven-day incidence nationwide could break the 100 mark in the next one to three weeks. Then, in theory, the emergency brake agreed by the federal and state governments would have to take effect – easing would be withdrawn again. Or politicians agree on new limit values.
A look at neighboring European countries shows how things could go from here. Because the rest of Europe is also going through a Corona mountain and valley ride. There are three conceivable scenarios:
The corona roller coaster is stalling further easing would thus possibly become unattainable.
The roller coaster always rushes in again new shutdown loops.
Or it rumbles in one at a high level Dauer-Shutdown light Ahead.
Example Austria – further openings in danger
Almost a month ago, Austria decided to relax, similar to Germany. The shops have been reopened under certain conditions since the beginning of February, and the school is also running regularly in many places. However, other restrictions still apply. Restaurants are only allowed to offer take-away food, private meetings are limited to two households, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., unlike in Germany, additional exit restrictions apply. However, during this time you can also go for a walk.
When Austria decided to relax, the seven-day incidence was around 100, and the Alpine republic is now approaching 200. According to the latest data from the Covid forecast consortium, the seven-day incidence threatens to rise from now around 165 to 228 next week. The development is likely to be very different from region to region. A particularly high value of around 320 is to be expected in the state of Salzburg. “Unfortunately, the rudder is pointing in the wrong direction,” said Austria’s Minister of Health, Rudolf Anschober.
One reason for the increasing numbers could also be increasing tests. The daily volume of antigen and PCR tests has leveled off at around 220,000 in Austria. Taking into account the population, this would correspond to around two million daily tests in Germany.
However, the number of tests has not increased significantly recently, and the number of Covid 19 patients in hospitals is also increasing noticeably. An indicator that the virus is actually spreading more strongly again. According to the authorities, there is no risk of overloading the intensive care units.
According to the Austrian Covid forecast consortium, the increase in the newly reported infections is due to the mutant B.1.1.7 known from Great Britain. The number of reproductions has risen to 1.14. That means that 100 sick infect 114 more people.
Meanwhile there are doubts whether the outdoor areas of the gastronomy in Austria can open on March 15th as planned.
Take Italy as an example – easing must be reversed
Since autumn, Italy has been using a traffic light system that divides individual areas into risk zones – depending on how much the virus is spreading there. At the beginning of February there were also initial easing in Italy. In the yellow zones, restaurants were allowed to open until 6 p.m., and museum visits have also been possible again since then. At first, the openings hardly seemed to drive the infection rate up. Through the end of February, the incidence remained stable at around 149 across the country.
However, the openings are noticeable with a delay because some time elapses between the day of infection and a positive test result. Since the end of February the numbers have increased significantly again. The health authorities in Italy counted almost 21,000 new infections within 24 hours on Sunday.
Italy has therefore tightened restrictions in several regions. Many schools there will be closed again from Monday, restaurants in affected areas are no longer allowed to open to guests. The southern Italian holiday region Campania, to which Naples and the Amalfi Coast belong, is now the third region to be a red zone with the sharpest corona barriers.
So far, Basilicata in the south and the small Adriatic region of Molise are such red zones. Schools have to close in these areas. People should as rarely as possible leave their homes. A night curfew from 10 p.m. continues throughout Italy. The regional borders may only be exceeded in exceptional cases. Because of the upward corona curve, experts called on the government to tighten the protective measures further at the weekend.
Example France – sideways movement
Unlike other countries, France did not rely on a strict national shutdown, instead the country is groping its way through a permanent half-shutdown. Schools and shops remained open. However, there is still a night curfew and large shopping centers and restaurants will remain closed. The infection curve has been moving sideways since then.
Since around the beginning of the year, the new infections reported per day have stagnated at a high level at around 20,000. The incidence for the whole of France was recently around 220, in Paris it was significantly higher at 320. Unlike Germany, however, France no longer focuses mainly on the reported number of new infections, but on the situation in hospitals.
Due to the increasing number of Covid-19 patients, additional weekend lockdowns apply in northern and southern France. From Friday 6 p.m. to Monday 6 a.m., residents are only allowed to leave their homes if they have a valid reason to do so. Those affected should only move within a radius of five kilometers.
The French department of Moselle, which borders Germany, has been a risk area with a particularly high risk of infection since the beginning of March, because the more contagious virus variant is spreading rapidly there. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Saarland Prime Minister Tobias Hans called for more vaccine doses to be made available in the Saarland border regions in order to dampen the spread of the virus variant.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the people in France would have to hold out for another four to six weeks. Then the effects of the vaccination campaign could bring noticeable easing. His government spokesman announced a “return to normal life” by mid-April. In the French Defense Council, Macron is said to have said: “As long as your vaccine is left in the refrigerator, I won’t lock people up again.” Now it remains to be seen whether the president can keep his promise.