“The third wave seems to be broken,” Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday during a weekly press briefing on the management of the pandemic in Germany.
Spahn’s comments came when the director of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, Lothar Wieler, confirmed that the incidence of COVID-19 infections was declining in all age groups across the country.
The institute registered 18,485 new infections in the 24 hours leading up to Friday, up from 27,543 in the same period two weeks ago.
Germany has recorded more than 3.5 million coronavirus infections and 84,410 deaths since the start of the pandemic last year.
Spahn said the infection rate had been reduced by efforts to reduce social contact and travel in recent weeks.
He also cited the rapid increase in vaccinations as a contributing factor. Mass vaccination efforts initially got off to a slow start.
Spahn said about 26.2 million people, or about 31.5% of the German population, had now received at least one dose of the vaccine. Almost nine percent received a full dose of two injections.
About 900,000 people received a dose on Thursday, putting Germany “on the fast track” by international comparison, Spahn said.
Germany gives the green light to AstraZenecea
In a bid to speed up the vaccination campaign, health officials on Thursday cleared the AstraZeneca vaccine for all adults – reversing previous restrictions imposed after reports of rare cases of blood clotting.
The move followed initiatives by several German federal states to allow people to get AstraZeneca vaccines, in consultation with their doctors.
“We are convinced that this offer is attractive for those who otherwise would not get vaccinated so quickly,” said Spahn, adding that a million doses of the vaccine would be delivered to doctors’ offices next week.
But despite apparent progress in the fight against infections, Spahn warned against reopening some areas of public life too quickly, warning that such a move “would carry a risk.”
Some of Germany’s 16 states have resumed allowing limited tourism and eating out.
Spahn said the Germans would still have to endure “weeks or months” of restrictions for the country to come to full control of the pandemic.
Legislation passed last month allowed the federal government to impose strict restrictions, including nighttime curfews, closures and contact restrictions in areas where cases exceed 100 per 100,000 residents for three consecutive days.
Even stricter measures can be applied in areas where recorded cases exceed 165 per 100,000 inhabitants.
Four of the German states – Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein – are now below the key threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 population, according to data compiled by the Robert Koch Institute.
Three others – Berlin, Rhineland-Palatinate and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – are also on the verge of exceeding that figure.