Health Minister: Germany’s Coronavirus Outbreak ‘Manageable Again’

BERLIN (Reuters) -
German Health Minister Jens Spahn speaks next to the head of the Robert Koch Institute for disease control Lothar H. Wieler, during a news conference on the situation in Germany amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Berlin, Germany, Friday. (John MacDougall/Pool via Reuters)

 

The coronavirus outbreak in Germany has become manageable again as the number of patients who have made a recovery has been higher than the number of new infections every day this week, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday Germany would take small steps out of lockdown with the partial reopening of shops next week and schools from May 4.

“The outbreak has – as of today – become controllable and manageable again,” Spahn told a news conference, adding that the health care system had “at no time been overwhelmed so far.”

Earlier, Spahn said a coronavirus contact tracing app will be ready for Germans to download and use on their smartphones in three to four weeks.

German federal and state government leaders said on Wednesday they would support voluntary use of a contact tracing app, when available, so people can quickly learn when they have had been exposed to an infected person.

Developers are working hard on an app to make sure data protection standards are “as perfect as possible,” Spahn told broadcaster ARD.

“For it to be really good, it needs more like three to four weeks rather than two weeks,” Spahn said.

Sources familiar with the matter say that the Robert Koch Health Institute’s contact tracing app is already ready and being tested, but its launch would be coordinated with Germany‘s moves to ease restrictions on movement.

The app would run on top of a technology platform, called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP), that is supporting similar app initiatives in other European countries including Italy.

Germany has the fifth highest COVID-19 caseload behind the United States, Spain, Italy and France at nearly 134,000 but has kept fatalities down to a relatively low 3,868 thanks to early and extensive testing.

The German authorities have, however, been more cautious than some Asian countries in using digital technology to fight the coronavirus, restrained by Europe’s strict data privacy laws and mindful of public skepticism toward any surveillance reminiscent of Nazi- or communist-era rule.