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Only 8% of people in German coronavirus hotspot had COVID-19, study finds


BERLIN (Reuters) - Results of a study in a town that had one of Germany's earliest coronavirus outbreaks found just 7.7% of residents have likely been infected with COVID-19, researchers said on Friday, suggesting the prevalence of the flu-like disease remains low.

Researchers took throat swabs and blood samples from 2,203 people from May 20 to June 9 in the town of Kupferzell in southern Germany, where a church concert was followed by a cluster of coronavirus infections in early March.

They found 7.7% of residents had antibodies to the coronavirus. This was almost four times as many infections as previously known, said Claudia Santos-Hoevener from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) of infectious diseases.

Around 17% of those with positive antibodies did not show any symptoms of the virus, the researchers said, while some 28% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 before the study did not show any antibodies. This does not mean, however, that they don't have any immunity, the researchers added.

Matthias Neth, district administrator, said the study showed authorities had succeeded in breaking the chain of infection after the initial outbreak.

Germany has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths relatively low compared with other European countries, but there are concerns about a possible second wave of the pandemic.

In the last three days, it has recorded the biggest daily increase in new infections since early May, prompting the health minister to warn of outbreaks all over the country.

Lars Schaade, deputy director of the RKI, said Germany could not allow the current development in cases to continue and urged people to restrict contact with others and respect the hygiene and social distancing rules.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,449 on Friday to 221,413, according to RKI data. The death toll rose by 14 to 9.225, the tally showed.

(Reporting by Thomas Seythal and Caroline Copley; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

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