The head of Germany’s infectious-disease institute said Thursday that while the COVID-19 risk in the country remains high and some hospitals are reaching their capacity, he also has seen signs for cautious optimism.Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, said the nation as of early Thursday had recorded 21,866 new cases of coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours.Wieler said that while infections continue to rise, he still found a reason to be hopeful. “What makes me cautiously optimistic,” he said, “is the fact that the number of cases has been increasing at a slightly slower rate for some days now. So, the curve is going up a little less steeply — it is flattening out.”FILE – A nurse treats a patient with COVID-19 in the intensive care unit of Bethel Hospital in Berlin, Germany, Nov. 11, 2020.He said he did not know if that was a stable development that could continue. But he insisted it showed that “we are not helplessly at the mercy of the virus,” and that measures the government has taken do make a difference.Germany implemented a four-week partial lockdown on November 2 to try to bring the rate of new infections under control. Restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities have closed, but schools and nonessential shops remain open.Wieler noted the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care has doubled in the past two weeks.He added that the situation is likely to worsen before it gets better.”It is possible that patients may no longer be able to receive optimal care everywhere. We must therefore prevent the situation from worsening further,” he said. “That is my expectation, and we are doing everything we can to achieve this goal.”Wieler said nearly half of the hospitals contacted by his institute are reporting a “limited availability” of ventilators and staffing issues.