New coronavirus cases confirmed in Hamburg and Hesse

On late Thursday evening the first coronavirus cases were reported in northern Germany in Hamburg and in the central state of Hesse.

New coronavirus cases confirmed in Hamburg and Hesse
University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), where an employee became infected with the virus. Photo: DPA

In Hamburg, it was reported that an employee of the children’s medical department at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) had become infected with the virus, according to the clinic and health authorities.

All children and parents who had close contact with the employee are now going into quarantine for 14 days. Other employees are also going into domestic isolation. 

READ ALSO: How well prepared is Germany for the spread of the coronavirus?

In total, the number of confirmed infections in Germany increased more than threefold within one day to over 30, and in North Rhine-Westphalia alone, an estimated 1000 people are said to be in quarantine. 

Virologist Christian Drosten assumes that the number of cases in Germany will continue to rise sharply. The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, does not expect a vaccine until 2021 at the earliest – but warned against panic. 

“We must stop panicking. The virus can cause serious illness in some people,” he told the Passauer Neue Presse on Friday. “However, in over 80 percent of cases it only leads to cold-like symptoms. But this is not the end of the world.”

In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, 14 new cases were reported on Thursday after a first case was confirmed on Tuesday evening. The 47-year-old man, who had a pre-existing medical condition, remains in serious condition.

In addition, four more infections were reported in the state of Baden-Württemberg and one new case each in the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Bavaria. 

‘Fond of traveling’

Sixteen initial infections in Germany were reported several weeks ago, with the majority of infections in Bavaria. All of these people are now considered virus-free. 

“We will see in the next few days that new cases and small groups of cases will spring up like mushrooms,” said virologist Christian Drosten on Thursday evening on German broadcaster ZDF.

He said that Germany would be one of the countries with the highest case numbers in Europe, “because our population is very fond of traveling”.

READ ALSO: Authorities in western Germany take action to stop the spread of coronavirus

The German government’s crisis committee will also discuss on Friday how to deal with large events such as trade fairs. 

This includes the effects on the International Tourism Exchange (ITB), which is scheduled to begin in Berlin on March 4th. 

Criteria could also be developed for other events, according to which local authorities could then decide on possible restrictions.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.