Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health, stands with Julian Brederlow, senior staff pharmacist, in a refrigerated container at…
Jens Spahn, German Minister of Health, with Julian Brederlow, senior staff pharmacist, at Bundeswehr pharmacy in Quakenbrueck, Germany, May 14, 2021. He said the national average infection rate fell to 96.5 per 100,000, its lowest level since March 20.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday the nation’s average COVID-19 infection rate over the past week has fallen below 100 per 100,000 residents for the first time in two months, a key threshold for lifting restrictions in the European nation.

Speaking to reporters while visiting a vaccine storage and distribution center in Quakenbruck, a city in Lower Saxony state, Spahn said the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported the national average infection rate fell to 96.5 per 100,000, its lowest level since March 20.  

He also said Germany’s vaccination program is gaining speed, with almost 36 percent of the population having received at least one shot, and more than 10 percent fully vaccinated. He said the nation set a record for vaccinations on Wednesday, with 1.35 million delivered.

A COVID-19 infection rate of 100 infections per 100,000 people is used as the threshold for imposing a nationwide “emergency brake,” imposing restrictions that include night-time curfews and limits on private gatherings. Should cases remain below this level, restrictions can be relaxed.

But Health Minister Spahn urged caution, saying care must be taken “to secure what has been achieved and not want too much too quickly, because that could backfire." He said not all regions are rebounding evenly. He urged regional officials to wait for rates to fall below 50 per 100,000 before opening restaurants for indoor dining.  

Spahn also said that, as the weather is warming and people are thinking about travel, they should prioritize going to areas with low infection rates.

Last month, the German parliament approved temporary emergency powers for the federal government, allowing it to implement nationwide restrictions like curfews in response to a third wave of infections that was sweeping the nation.