A leading virologist who is conducting a huge study into Germany's worst-hit area says evidence suggests Covid-19 is not transmitted by touching surfaces as previously thought
A leading German scientist is casting doubt on our current understanding of coronavirus, suggesting it may not be spread as easily as we think.
Professor Hendrik Streeck, head virologist at the University of Bonn, has conducted research in the small village of Heinsberg, the site of the country's worst Covid-19 outbreak.
Germany has a total of 79,696 cases and 1,017 deaths, while the Heinsberg area has approximately 1,302 cases and 37 deaths – huge for a population of 250,000.
But when Prof Streeck examined the home of one infected family, he found the house did not have "any live virus on any surface", contradicting the belief that coronavirus can live on various surfaces for days.
The virus was not found on door knobs or animal fur either.
There have been "no proven infections while shopping or at the hairdressers", he said in an interview with a German TV station.
"The virus spreads in other places: the party in Ischgl, the club in Berlin, the football game in Bergamo," he said.
"We know it's not a smear infection that is transmitted by touching objects, but that close dancing and exuberant celebrations have led to infections."
He said Germany's patient zero had infected only her colleagues with coronavirus, and not other guests or diners at the hotel she had been staying at.
If true, this would throw into question all existing theories about how Covid-19 is spread from person to person.
Most affected countries including the UK have closed shops, bars and restaurants and banned public gatherings in the belief the virus is easily spread in these environments.
Prof Streeck is leading a revolutionary study into coronavirus based in Heinsberg, which has been coined "Germany's Wuhan" after the original epicentre of the virus.
The spread of coronavirus in Heinsberg is estimated to be about two and a half weeks ahead of the rest of the country.
A team of 40 researchers will use the district as a real-life laboratory to study the virus, following 1,000 residents over the coming weeks in the hopes of formulating a plan for how Germany will deal with Covid-19.
The country has been praised for its high testing rate and relatively low death rate during the pandemic, but a confidential study recently leaked to the German media showed that the government would need to ramp up its testing capacity to avoid a mass outbreak.
Germany currently has the ability to test up to 500,000 people a week but needs to increase that to more than a million - the equivalent of 200,000 tests a day.
In contrast, the UK government said it would ultimately aim to conduct 250,000 tests a day, but that goal has since been dropped to 100,000 a day by the end of April.
Around 10,000 tests are currently being carried out each day.