German health minister says COVID-19 ‘controllable’

Berlin, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Measures introduced to restrict the spread of the coronavirus in Germany a month ago have rendered the epidemic “controllable”, the country’s health minister said on Friday.

At a press conference to review the effectiveness of the restrictions, Jens Spahn said the shutdown imposed in mid-March by the federal government and state authorities had worked.

“We can say that it was successful,” the health minister said.

“As of today, the outbreak has become controllable and manageable again”.

He said authorities “had managed to bring exponential growth back to a linear growth”, and underlined that at no point during the outbreak had Germany’s healthcare systems become overwhelmed.

Spahn praised the “tight network” of doctors, medical professionals and general practitioners who had contributed to flattening the upward curve of contagions, adding that six out of every seven cases of coronavirus were treated.

He also reserved praise for hospitals that were able to expand the number of beds in Intensive Care Units (ICUs) to 40,000, but warned that 10,000 beds not currently being used would not be kept free indefinitely.

Acknowledging the difficulty of balancing the need to keep the beds free for possible new cases of coronavirus and taking up other medical procedures and operations that have been postponed due to the outbreak, Spahn announced that clinics would start a “step-by-step and cautious” return to a “new normal” from the middle of May.

Spahn’s announcements follow the latest release of figures by the country’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which said that the number of new coronavirus cases caused by an infected person had fallen to under 1, meaning the epidemic was in remission.

The RKI director, Lothar Wieler, said that it was crucial that that figure remain below 1 and cautioned that much work remains to be done before Germany can consider the virus no longer a threat.

Central to that fight will be continuing and aggressive testing; Spahn said that more than 1.7 million had already been carried out, a rate of around 350,000 tests per week, adding that laboratories would be able to double that number.

The health minister also confirmed that 80 million masks had arrived in Germany this week, including 20 million FFP2 respirators for health workers. EFE-EPA


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