German Health Officials: Virus Spreading ‘Exponentially’

German health officials Friday said coronavirus cases in the country are rising at “an exponential rate,” forcing the government to reconsider lifting COVID-19 restrictions. At a news conference in Berlin, Robert Koch Institute ((RKI)) for infectious Diseases Vice President Lars Schaade told reporters highly contagious virus variants were getting the upper hand in the nation, wiping out progress seen last month in containing the pandemic.Shaade, appearing with German Health Minister Jens Spahn, reported 17,482 new infections in the previous 24 hours and 226 deaths in Germany, with the seven-day incidence rate soaring to about 96 per 100,000 people, despite a months-long lockdown in much of the country.Shaade said increased infections were notably among younger people. “The incidence increases are clearly in the groups under 60 years old, especially in the group 15 to 49 years old.”Spahn told reporters the numbers mean plans to re-open the country will need to be put on hold. “On the contrary, we may even have to take steps backwards.”Earlier this month, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions, she said she and regional leaders agreed to impose new restrictions in areas where the seven-day incidence rate surpassed 100. At least two regions have already reached that threshold.Meanwhile, Spahn said he has been negotiating with Russia regarding its Sputnik V vaccine, and indicated he is very close to completing a deal. He said the government had been in close contact with the Russians, “and I can also well imagine that we [will] conclude contracts — and conclude them quickly.”He said, however, Germany needs more details on how many doses could be delivered and when. The vaccine has yet to be approved by German or European Union regulators.Germany resumed administering AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Thursday after the EU regulator Europe Medincines Agency ((EMA)) concluded once again that it was safe and effective. The agency had conducted a study of the vaccine and cases of blood clots reported in several patients after receiving the vaccine.

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