Germany added fewer than 4,000 cases to its coronavirus tally for the second day running today, in the latest promising sign that the peak has passed.
The increase of 3,834 cases follows a similar jump of 3,677 yesterday, bringing the total number of infections from 95,391 to 99,225.
The 4.0 per cent rise is almost identical to yesterday’s increase, which was the lowest since the crisis began.
However, the jump of 173 deaths is higher than yesterday’s 92, bringing the total from 1,434 to 1,607.
This graph shows the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Germany, which has stayed below 4,000 for two days running
This graph shows the daily number of deaths. After falling to 92 yesterday, the number was back up to 173 today
The 3,834 new cases include 1,189 in Bavaria and 746 in Baden-Wuerttemberg, which are the two southern states closest to Italy.
Bavaria has the largest share of cases with 26,163 in total, including more than 3,600 in the capital Munich.
Elsewhere, the populous western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has more than 20,000 virus cases, while Berlin has nearly 4,000 with 28 deaths.
Germany’s daily infection count was above 6,000 for three days running last week, but fell for three days in a row before remaining below 4,000 today.
The percentage growth in new infections has also been declining, from 21.0 per cent on March 24 to only 4.0 per cent in the last two days.
A leaked document from Germany’s interior ministry has already laid out plans for lifting the lockdown, although Angela Merkel says it is too early to set a date.
The document says restrictions could be eased if the rate of contagion is below 1.0, meaning that each patient is infecting less than one other person on average.
If that is achieved, children could return to school on a regional basis, and restaurants could re-open with a limited number of customers.
Merkel said restrictions would be lifted step by step, warning that public health would always be the first consideration.
Medical staff in protective suits and masks treat a coronavirus patient in an intensive care unit at a community hospital in Berlin yesterday
A medical worker presses a screen while wearing gloves at the Havelhoehe community hospital in Berlin yesterday
A medical worker takes a sample from a man at the Berlin hospital. Germany has carried out mass testing to contain the disease
The head of state-owned railway Deutsche Bahn (DB) yesterday praised customers for ‘being responsible’ by cutting their travel.
DB president Richard Lutz said the current number of passengers was ‘about 10 to 15 per cent of its usual level’.
In Frankfurt, the country’s biggest airport marked a 91 per cent drop in the number of passengers in the last week of March against the same period in 2019.
Germany’s neighbour Austria yesterday became the first European country to lay out a detailed timeline for the end of the lockdown, with some shops opening next week.
Merkel also signalled yesterday that Europe should aim for self-sufficiency in the production of masks and other critical supplies.
Governments have struggled to supply enough equipment to their overwhelmed health systems as virus cases pile up.
‘Regardless of the fact that this market is presently installed in Asia… we need a certain self-sufficiency, or at least a pillar of our own manufacturing’ in Germany or elsewhere in the European Union, she said.
Merkel said the EU ‘stands before the biggest test since its founding’, amid fraught discussions over financial aid from Brussels.
Italy, France and Spain have been imploring Germany, Austria and the Netherlands for common debt facilities to cushion the economic impact of the virus.
But frugal Germany has long been against the idea, not wanting to take on the debts of what it regards as fiscally indisciplined countries.
Medical student Florian Schwenzer, wearing a mask, protective suit and gloves, works at a care facility underneath the north stand at Borussia Dortmund’s football ground
A display board on the top of a building overlooking the River Spree in Berlin broadcasts the message to stay at home during the lockdown last night
Merkel yesterday made no mention of the controversial common debt instruments dubbed ‘coronabonds’.
However, Merkel reiterated her government’s stance of activating the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.
‘Everyone is just as affected as the other, and therefore, it is in everyone’s interest, and it is in Germany’s interest for Europe to emerge strong from this test,’ she said.
German finance minister Olaf Scholz has said the fund could be triggered ‘with no senseless conditions’ to help struggling states.
Merkel, 65, spent two weeks working from home after coming into contact with a doctor who later proved to be infected. The chancellor herself tested negative.
Her chief of staff yesterday played down speculation that she could postpone her retirement and run for a fifth term in 2021 because of the crisis.
‘I don’t think this is any time to discuss something like that,’ Helge Braun said. ‘She has said that this is her last term in office and I believe nothing has changed about that.’