“We may once again be at a turning point. The downward trend of the last few weeks is apparently no longer continuing,’’ Wieler said.
The RKI registered 9,113 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour period on Friday, which was still slightly below the previous week’s level.
To date, about 2.37 million COVID-19 infections have been officially registered in Germany since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Also in the 24 hours, 508 deaths related to the coronavirus were registered by the RKI, bringing the total COVID-19 death toll in Germany to 67,206.
The decline of new infections in many federal states was slowing down, but the “plateau is still too high.
“We do not yet know for sure whether the alarming variants are already playing a role here,” stressed Wieler.
According to a representative sample analysis conducted by the RKI, the share of variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in Britain, already increased from less than six per cent two weeks ago to more than 22 per cent in Germany.
The B.1.1.7 virus variant is more contagious and probably more dangerous.
“We have to be prepared that this will also make it more difficult to fight the pandemic,” said Wieler.
Germany is still in a COVID-19 lockdown, which is scheduled to last until at least March 7. Strict contact restrictions apply and non-essential shops, restaurants and leisure facilities are closed.
A growing majority, 54 per cent of Germans supported the country’s COVID-19 measures and described them as “appropriate,” according to the latest DeutschlandTrend poll published by the public broadcaster ARD on Thursday.
“The desire for an end to the lockdown is palpable.
“But we have to be very careful and cautious in the process of opening to avoid gambling away what we have achieved as well,” said Minister of Health, Jens Spahn.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in Germany and many other European countries with the already-authorised coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 250 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide, 69 of them in clinical trials in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organisation on Feb. 16.