WASHINGTON - Germany passed an important milestone Tuesday: Its coronavirus reproduction rate fell below 1, it said.
Public health officials said that as of Tuesday, 100 infected people could now infect 94 others within 24 hours. At Monday’s rate, 100 people could infect 107 others, and on Sunday, 100 people could infect 113. But Germany still saw a spike of new COVID-19 cases Tuesday: 933 compared with 357 on Monday. The increase has sparked fear of a new wave of infections after the coronavirus restrictions were eased.
Scientists from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s primary disease control agency, said the virus reproduction rates may change from day to day and there is no reason for concern unless there is a steady growth of new cases for an extended period of time.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said regions where the number of active infections rise above 50 per 100,000 residents will have to reinstate a lockdown. Three regions have reached that number in the past week and have re-imposed some emergency measures to stop the spread of the virus.
The resurgence of new cases occurs as Germany prepares to further ease restrictions and open more shops, recreation centers and start the gradual return of students to schools. Merkel has appealed to the public to maintain social distance, wear masks and behave responsibly.
The German leader has been under pressure to restart the economy. Anti-lockdown protests took place in several major cities over the weekend.
There is a similar push to end lockdowns in the United States, which has more than 1,360,000 COVID infections and more than 82,000 deaths, more than any other country in the world, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
The Trump administration is eager to reopen the country to businesses and rebuild the economy before the November presidential election. About half of the states have begun to lift their lockdowns as a step toward economic recovery, others are planning to follow suit.
The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, warns that reopening too soon could cause more suffering and death.
“There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Fauci told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.
For the past two days, the United States saw its death rate drop below 1,000 a day, for the first time in weeks. Fauci said easing restrictions could turn back the clock.
Overnight, Russia become second only to the United States in the number of coronavirus cases. The official Tass news agency on Tuesday confirmed a total of 232,243 COVID-19 cases and 2,116 fatalities nationwide. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov announced Tuesday that he has contracted the virus. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin had to relinquish his duties two weeks ago after being diagnosed with COVID-19. President Vladimir Putin is conducting all his communication via video links from his official retreat outside Moscow.
The spike in Russia’s coronavirus infections occurs as the country’s official non-working period ends. Putin ordered all sectors to return to work May 12 “in the interest of the country.” But he allowed regional governors to maintain or reimpose lockdowns if necessary.
Many other countries worldwide have begun easing measures to contain the novel coronavirus, despite upsurges of new cases and warnings of a second outbreak.
Italy, Lebanon and Croatia have also reported an increase in new cases after easing restrictions.
Authorities in Croatia are investigating reports of an infected Spanish citizen who landed in the capital, Zagreb, on May 2 and proceeded to an unknown destination in the northern Adriatic at a time when foreign nationals were barred from traveling there. Several other passengers on the same Lufthansa flight also had COVID-19, but they were Croatian citizens returning home.
Croatia has had significant success containing the virus and keeping the death rate low, considering its proximity to Italy, which was the world’s most affected country in March.
In an effort to prevent importing new cases of the coronavirus, Spain is requiring people arriving from abroad to go into quarantine for two weeks. The country was under strict lockdown for seven weeks after an explosion of cases made it one of the world’s top three most infected countries.
The quarantine rules will go into effect on Friday and will apply both to visitors from other countries as well as Spanish citizens who are returning home.
India resumed some train service Tuesday for the first time since March, despite 3,600 new cases recorded Monday, almost as many as a record number of new cases the day before.
Chinese authorities said they would test all 11 million people in the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began, after new cases reappeared there.
New Zealand has entered a second phase on the road to recovery with reopening of restaurant and movie theaters.
In Singapore, a new phase started Tuesday with people allowed to get a haircut, visit bakeries or go to laundromats.
Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has topped 4.2 million. The global death tally has surpassed 291,000, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics.