|Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's agency for the control of infectious diseases, at a news conference - image Sky news
Germany faces the prospect of having to restore stricter lockdown measures as its number and rate of coronavirus infections grew again.
Hailed as among Europe's most successful in tackling the pandemic, the country began relaxing restrictions on 20 April to allow small businesses to open as the reproduction rate of the virus fell.
Based on the average number of people each infected person transmitsto, the rate - known as 'R' - had fallen to 0.7
It has since increased to 0.96, only just below the figure of one officials say it must not exceed in order to keep the pandemic manageable.
And while officials believe it is too early to say whether the lifting of restrictions caused the increase, the country's overall number of COVID-19 cases grew by 1,018 on Monday and 1,144 on Tuesday.
Developments there are of particular significance given that other governments - including the UK's - are monitoring the situation closely in the hope it could help guide their approach to easing lockdown measures.
Lothar Wieler, the head of's disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, stressed the importance of the reproduction rate.
"The number should stay below one, that is the big goal," he told a news conference.
"The further it is below one, the more secure we can feel, the more leeway we have, but there are other numbers that are also important," he said, adding that these included the number of cases per day, and testing capacity.
He urged people to continue complying with social distancing guidelines, wearing masks on public transport and in shops, and staying at home where possible.
"Against the background of the easing (of restrictions), let's ensure we can continue to defend this success we have achieved together," he said.
"We don't want the number of cases to rise again. Let's, insofar as is possible, stay at home, let's stick to the reduced contact."
The virus has infected a total of nearly 160,000 people and killed about 6,000 in Germany, compared to more than 20,000 who have died after contracting COVID-19 in the UK.
The education ministers of Germany's 16 federal states agreed on Tuesday that schools across the country would slowly reopen classes for all ages until the summer holidays, although pupils would have to work and learn in smaller groups.
"There will be no regular classes before the summer holidays," said Stefanie Hubig, head of the ministerial council for education.
It comes after retailers with floor space of up to 800 square metres were allowed to open, along with car and bicycle dealers, and bookstores, though they must practise strict social distancing and hygiene rules.
German retailers want the government to let all stores operate normally from 4 May, saying customers had not stormed back into the smaller shops that were allowed to reopen and were behaving prudently.
Chancellor Angela Merkel will discuss the next steps for the easing of lockdown restrictions in a telephone conference with the state premiers on Thursday.
She urged Germans last week to show endurance and discipline to get through the coronavirus pandemic that she said was "still at the beginning".