The coronavirus reproduction rate in Germany has jumped to 2.88 from 1.79 in a day, sparking fears the country could be heading for a huge second wave.
A reproduction rate, or “R”, of 2.88 means that out of 100 people who contracted the virus a further 288 other people will get infected.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for Public Health said the R rate had jumped from 1.79 on Saturday to 2.88 on Sunday, taking infections above the level needed to contain it over the longer term.
The increase is based on RKI’s 4-day average data, which reflects infection rates one to two weeks ago, the institute claims.
In a statement, RKI said: “Since case numbers in Germany are generally low, these outbreaks have a relatively strong influence on the value of the reproduction number.
“A nationwide increase in case numbers is not anticipated.”
But the rising R rate has left Germans fearing a second wave of the disease in their country.
RKI said an accurate reading for long-term patterns will take a couple of days but said infection rates have risen by 2.03 on average in the last week.
The Institute added that the outbreaks are linked to church services, family parties and locations such as meatpacking plants, logistics centres, and shelters for refugees.
Germany has had repeated Covid-19 outbreaks in slaughterhouses, whose employees are often migrants living in crowded company-provided accommodation.
In Gütersloh, more than 650 people tested positive for the virus at a meat processing plant in the north-west of the country.
All workers who have been in contact with someone at the plant have been told to go into isolation as they await their test results.
Local authorities have also closed schools and childcare centres in the region until the end of the month, a move welcomed by Angela Merkel.