The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in Germany has breached the 1,000 threshold for the first time since early May, in the latest sign that slackening social distancing is raising the risk of a second wave of the disease.
According to data published by the Robert Koch Institute early on Thursday morning, the number of new infections rose by 1,045 to 213,067, breaching a key psychological barrier after creeping up for weeks.
With Europe's largest economy only now starting to recover from the near-total lockdown that was imposed in March to stem the disease's spread, any sign of renewed restrictions on the horizon will dismay investors. The head of the German doctors' union said earlier this week that Germany was already contending with a second wave of the coronavirus and risks squandering its early success by flouting social distancing rules.
Officials, including Health Minister Jens Spahn, have warned that it will become far harder to control the spread of new infections from autumn onwards, making it all the more important to keep numbers down as the summer draws to a close.
The lockdown and social distancing pushed the number of new cases down to as low as 159 in mid-July but numbers have been rising since, fuelled by local outbreaks, including one centered on a slaughterhouse that required restrictions to be placed on the entire town of Guetersloh.
Ominously, a poll for Der Spiegel magazine showed four-fifths of Germans expect the further lockdowns to be imposed to control the coronavirus pandemic, with half of them expecting future measures to be more severe.
Spahn is due to give a news conference on the latest developments in infection numbers later on Thursday.