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German COVID-19 cases rise amid AstraZeneca vaccine suspension

German COVID-19 cases rise amid AstraZeneca vaccine suspension
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Coronavirus infections are on the rise in Germany as the country has joined more than a dozen European nations in suspending the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine over concerns of blood clots. 

The Robert Koch Institut, Germany’s center for infectious diseases, on Tuesday reported about 83.7 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people, a jump from 68 just one week prior. The institute said that this number could reach 200 by mid-April. 

Dirk Brockmann, a Robert Koch Institut epidemiologist, told Germany’s ARD television that the spike in cases indicates a third wave of COVID-19 in the country that was initially praised for its early responses to the pandemic. 

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Brockmann specifically attributed the increase to the government’s easing of nationwide safety restrictions as a new more transmissible variant has spread throughout the country. 

“At this point, we have eased the restrictions and that is speeding up the exponential growth,” he said, according to CNBC. “It has been totally irrational to loosen up here. It’s just fueling this exponential growth.” 

Earlier this month, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other state leaders agreed to a phased process of easing restrictions, along with an “emergency brake” allowing authorities to reimpose safety measures should case numbers reach more than 100 per 100,000 people for three consecutive days, according to Reuters

Merkel will meet with other leaders again on Monday, when they will decide whether to continue with the phased reopening. 

However, experts warn that the increased rate of infection, as well as the suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine, could delay the country’s progress toward reaching herd immunity. 

This week, Germany, along with other countries such as Portugal, Italy and Sweden, moved to temporarily suspend the AstraZeneca inoculation despite insistence from Europe’s top medical regulator that the vaccine is safe. 

"At present, there is no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions," Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said Tuesday in reference to reports of blood clots. "They have not come up in clinical trials, and they're not listed as known or expected side events."

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization recommended that countries continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, noting that blood clots are common, but added that its Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety was assessing safety data and that it was staying in touch with the European Medicines Agency, the European Union’s version of the Food and Drug Administration.