The number of new coronavirus infections in Germany continues to rise exponentially. On Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute said there were 8,198 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,042 from the day before. Europe on the whole has around 64,000 confirmed cases.
"We're at the beginning of an epidemic that will continue to affect our country for many weeks and months," said Lothar Wieler, the institute's president. "If we don't manage to do this sustainably, it's possible that we will have up to 10 million infected people within two to three months."
On Tuesday, the institute raised its risk level in Germany to "high."
Two Years for Pandemic to Run Its Course
Wieler also clarified a statement he made on Tuesday about the pandemic taking two years to run its course. He said many people had falsely understood that the extreme measures currently being imposed across Western Europe and in some parts of the world would remain in place for two years.
What he meant was that pandemics happen in waves and that it could take up to two years for much of the population -- as much as 60 to 70 percent, by some estimates -- to contract the virus and build immunity to it, at which point the epidemic would be largely under control.
Wieler also said the current situation of mass closures and cancellations and sheltering in place was not sustainable in the long run, though he couldn't say when the strict measures would be relaxed. Public health officials won't be able to judge the effectiveness of the restrictions on public life for about another two weeks.
"It always takes a few days before a diagnosis is made and then reported," Lars Schaade, the vice president of the Robert Koch Institute, said during a press conference on Monday. "So you have a reporting delay and a diagnostic delay -- not to mention the incubation period."
Coronavirus: Coronaviruses are a family of viruses to which the pathogen currently spreading around the world also belongs. Because it didn't have a name at the beginning of the pandemic, it was simply referred to as "novel coronavirus."
SARS-CoV-2: The World Health Organization (WHO) gave the novel coronavirus the name SARS-CoV-2, which stands for "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus-2." The name refers to the virus which can trigger symptoms, but may not.
COVID-19: The illness triggered by the SARS-CoV-2 virus is called COVID-19, which stands for "Coronavirus Disease-2019." As such, COVID-19 patients are those who have been infected with the virus SARS-CoV-2 and are showing symptoms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced sweeping social distancing measures to slow the spread of the virus, calling on people to avoid congregating in large groups and to stay home as much as possible. At the same time, officials have urged Germans to avoid stockpiling more food than necessary to avoid shortages.
As part of nationwide closures of non-essential stores and services, places like supermarkets, drug stores, pharmacies, restaurants and some establishments with essential goods will be permitted to stay open.