Expert opinion Incidence rate could drop to 35 by early March

Berlin · 35 is the new 50. If the seven-day incidence rate falls steadily to reach 35, coronavirus measures which are currently in place could be eased up. That may not be long now, experts say, but there are some uncertainties.

 A prerequisite for falling incidence rates is that measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask continue to be observed.

A prerequisite for falling incidence rates is that measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask continue to be observed.

Foto: dpa/Federico Gambarini

According to experts, the nationwide target of a 35 incidence rate could be reached as early as the beginning of March. A prerequisite, however, is that measures such as social distancing and wearing a mask continue to be observed, Giessen virologist Friedemann Weber told dpa.

Mathematician Maria Barbarossa of the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies said, "Our most optimistic predictions show that we can reach an incidence rate of 50 in as early as two weeks." By March 7, the numbers could be moving towards 35 - assuming everything stays closed, she said.

On Thursday morning, the number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants (seven-day incidence rate) was still 64.2 nationwide, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). The federal and state governments agreed on Wednesday to extend the lockdown until March 7. If the seven-day incidence rate falls below 35 by then, the restrictions will be eased up. Previously, the federal government had targeted an incidence rate of 50. "I'm pleasantly surprised that they're now going for an incidence rate of 35 and not just being content with 50. The lower the better," Weber said.

It's unclear whether the trend of recent weeks will continue and whether the numbers will continue to drop. "There are so many factors that can play a role there," Barbarossa said, also in light of the more contagious new virus variants. He said the opening of schools, especially in cities, is again creating more crowded conditions on public transportation - and thus more potential for infection.

Weber also called the move "not good from an infectiological point of view." From a social point of view, however, it is understandable. The Erlangen-based infection immunologist Christian Bogdan, on the other hand, considers the gradual opening of daycare centers and schools to be sensible, depending on the local situation.

Berit Lange, an epidemiologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, emphasized that it is important to be able to counteract any possible increase in cases with new restrictions. A precise step-by-step plan must also be "worked through upwards" - "in case, even within the current lockdown, tightening up at higher levels should become necessary again." Weber also cautioned that there needs to be not only a focus on easing up, but also a clear definition of which areas would be closed again in case of rising numbers.

German health departments reported 10,237 new Corona infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within one day. In addition, 666 new deaths were recorded within 24 hours, according to RKI figures.

According to the RKI, the incidence rate on Thursday was 64.2 nationwide. Four weeks ago, on January 13, the incidence rate was 155. Its previous high had been 197.6 on Dec. 22. According to the RKI, most German states continue to record falling seven-day incidence rates.

(Orig. text: dpa, Translation: Carol Kloeppel)

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