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German Health Minister Says COVID-19 Infection Numbers Have Fallen

German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, with Lothar Wieler, head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for disease control, arrive for a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Germany, in Berlin, Apr. 29, 2021.

German health officials had good news for the country Thursday in terms of falling COVID-19 infection rates and record numbers of vaccinations delivered but said there is still a long way to go.

At a Berlin news conference, Germany Health Minister Jens Spahn, along with Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) President Lothar Wieler, noted the average number of new infections per 100,000 people in the country fell to 155 Thursday for the third day in a row, its lowest level in two weeks. On Monday, the rate was 169.

But to Spahn, the dropping numbers reflected a “stagnation” of rising numbers of cases, and it has yet to be determined if this was a one-time occurrence or if it reflected an actual reversal of recent trends. He said it was still not enough progress, as hospital intensive care units remain full in many cities.

Spahn also noted Germany vaccinated a record 1.1 million people Wednesday — more than 1% of the population in a single day. He said that means “now, 25.9% of Germans have had at least one vaccine, and 7.5% have had the second vaccine."

But Wieler said it is too early to talk about lifting restrictions across the country. He said the numbers show that cases are continuing to rise among those under the age of 60, and cases among children are “going up drastically.”

He said that while children are less likely to get sick or get a severe case, there are now studies showing children experiencing long-term COVID-19 side effects, where symptoms of the infection continue beyond the infection itself.

Parts of Germany imposed tougher lockdown rules last weekend after Chancellor Angela Merkel drew up legislation to give the federal government more power after some of the 16 federal states refused stricter measures.

The new law enables the government to impose curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in districts where cases exceed 100 per 100,000 residents on three consecutive days. The rules also include stricter limits on private gatherings and shopping.