Covid restrictions reinforced in German city as infection rate rises

Berlin, Jun 23 (efe-epa).- Authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have reactivated the lockdown for the county of Gütersloh following a new coronavirus outbreak traced to a meat-packing factory.

At least 1,533 people with links to the Tönnies slaughterhouse, in the city of Gütersloh, have tested positive for Covid-19.

Announcing the restrictions, the regional head of government, conservative politician Armin Laschet, told a press conference that aside from the outbreak at the slaughterhouse, there were only 24 cases in the state.

“This allows us to say that the outbreak is localized, but we’re going to take it a step further and close down public life in the district of Gütersloh,” he said, adding it would provide “calm” and allow authorities to clarify the situation.

Many of those who tested positive were Romanian and Bulgarian employees of the Tönnies meat factory and questions have been raised about the health and safety standards at the lodgings provided to workers.

German authorities on Tuesday urged extra caution against secondary outbreaks across the country, which have caused a spike in the infection rate.

The R rate in Germany, which assumes the average number of people one person can infect, has risen to R2.03, although many of the cases are highly localized.

Lothar Wieler, the director of the Robert Koch Institute, said: “We have to observe maximum prudence. The virus is still here and it has a high reproduction rate, as we have seen in the local cases mentioned.”

Most of the country has recorded little to no new infections, Wieler said.

But the outbreaks in the meat factory in Gütersloh, an apartment building in Gotinga and in Berlin’s Neukölln’neighborhood show how rapidly the coronavirus can spread.

The overall number of cases detected since the outbreak began in Germany is 190,862, an increase of 503 cases in the last 24 hours.

A total of 8,895 people have died from the virus in Germany while 175,700 have recovered, according to the RKI.

Berlin city-state officials on Tuesday said there would be a tough response to illegal parties in the capital.

“The rules must be respected and whoever does not adhere will face consequences” the local interior minister, Andreas Geisel, told Rbb public radio.

Berlin, a city famed for its nightlife, is slowly returning to normality but nightclubs remain closed to the public.

A number of illegal parties have been reported in recent weeks, mainly in the vibrant neighborhoods of Kreuzberg and Neukölln

Several apartment blocks in Neukölln, comprising a total of 370 households, were placed in confinement again last week following a fresh outbreak.

The remarks from Berlin’s regional leader came after a weekend of disturbances in the city of Stuttgart, where 19 police officers were injured on Saturday when clashes broke out following a series of drugs checks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the violence. EFE-EPA


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