The coronavirus reproduction rate has shot up in Germany as the country exits lockdown – sparking fears of a second wave of the virus.
Scientists estimate that the closely-monitored R rate jumped to 1 .79 after a raft of localised outbreaks.
The figure is a sharp increase from 1 .06 on Friday, far above the level needed to contain the deadly virus over the longer term.
Germany has so far fared better in the pandemic than many European peers due mainly to early testing and social distancing measures.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health attributed the rise to a number of local outbreaks, which have been seen in locations such as meatpacking plants, logistics centres, and shelters for refugees. Outbreaks have also been linked to church services and family parties.
The premier of the western North Rhine-Westphalia region warned on Friday it faces the threat of a renewed lockdown amid a spiralling outbreak at a major slaughterhouse.
“Since case numbers in Germany are generally low, these outbreaks have a relatively strong influence on the value of the reproduction number,” RKI said. “A nationwide increase in case numbers is not anticipated.”
When smoothed for short-term effects, them government-affiliated institute estimated the country’s reproduction rate at 1 .55, up from 1 .17 on Friday.
A reproduction rate, or ‘R’, of 1 .79 means that 100 people who contracted the virus infect, on average, 179 other people. A rate of less than 1 is needed to gradually contain the disease.