Germany’s top virologist doesn't envisage a second national lockdown

17 September 2020, Berlin: Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité in Berlin, speaks at the 17th Communications Congress 2020, receiving the BdKom prize for communication on the corona crisis. Photo: Christophe Gateau/dpa (Photo by Christophe Gateau/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Christian Drosten, Director of the Institute of Virology in Berlin, Germany. Photo: Christophe Gateau/Picture Alliance via Getty

Another Germany-wide coronavirus lockdown is unlikely to happen, according to country’s most prominent virologist.

Christian Drosten, the professor who spearheaded coronavirus-test development at Berlin’s Charité Hospital, told the German Press Agency even if the coronavirus situation in Germany worsens, another lockdown like the strict one in spring this year is not inevitable.

"You don't always need a Germany-wide or regional lockdown because we already know some things better," said Drosten.

However, he believes that some areas of work and personal life could face new restrictions, adding that Germany should not think it will escape a rise in infections like other EU countries.

READ MORE: Early testing and swift lockdowns prevented 'up to 100,000 deaths' in Germany

Germany has seen a surge in COVID-19 infections in August and September. However, both the number of confirmed cases as well as the death toll from COVID-19 are significantly lower than in Spain, Italy, France, and the UK.

According to the latest statistics from Johns Hopkins University, Germany has had a little over 270,000 confirmed cases of infection, and 9,390 deaths so far. The Robert Koch Institute said today Germany had recorded 2,297 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours through Monday morning— the highest number of daily infections since the end of April.

Drosten said in May this year that early and extensive testing had helped the country avoid tens of thousands of deaths.

However, with the colder months just beginning, infections are expected to keep rising. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned in August that Germans need to expect “that a lot will become even more difficult in the coming months… than during summer, when we were able to be outside.”

READ MORE: Angela Merkel warns COVID-19 pandemic likely to get worse in coming months

Federal health minister Jens Spahn said that the German healthcare system is well prepared for winter, thanks in part to a digital register to monitor intensive care bed occupancy.

“As of today, we still have more ICU beds available than Italy and France together have in total,” Spahn told German Public Radio. He added that if coronavirus numbers kept rising over a number of days, clinics had the ability to postpone certain operations to free up ICU beds.

READ MORE: Germany backs three domestic firms with €750m to develop COVID-19 vaccine

Spahn said it is essential to stop infections in areas where at-risk people are, for example by setting up special “fever walk-in clinics” for those with flu symptoms, so they can avoid going to a regular doctor’s surgery and potentially infecting other people.

However, Spahn said what worries him most are the rising case numbers in neighbouring European countries, which will have a direct impact on Germany, due to cross-border mobility.