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NORTH RHINE-WESTPHALIA

Coronavirus: Number of cases in Germany doubles to 129

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in Germany jumped sharply to 129 on Sunday, official data showed, as the interior minister said he expected a vaccine by the end of the year.

Coronavirus: Number of cases in Germany doubles to 129
The Maria Hilf hospital in Mönchengladbach in North Rhine-Westphalia. where a doctor worked who was later found to have been infected with the virus. Photo: Jana Bauch/dpa
The latest tally given by the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's centre for disease control and prevention, showed that the number of cases had almost doubled from 66 on Saturday morning.
   
More than half are in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state where an infected couple attended carnival celebrations.
   
The deadly virus has now reached nine of Germany's 16 states, with Frankfurt, Hamburg and Bremen among the cities reporting their first COVID-19 cases.
   
Speaking to the mass-daily Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he did not see a swift end to the virus's spread but was optimistic a cure could be found.
   
“I estimate that a vaccine will be available by the end of year,” he said, adding that he himself had stopped shaking people's hands.   
 
Asked whether Germany would go so far as to close off access to cities or regions, he said “such a scenario would be a last resort”.
   
The state of Bavaria announced four new cases on Sunday, including an employee at machine tool manufacturer DMG Mori.
   
The company has asked its 1,600 employees not to come to work on Monday.
   
Several hundred people meanwhile were released from quarantine in the district of Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, allowing them to leave their homes again.
   
The cluster there has been linked to a carnival gathering on February 15. Four kindergarten children in Heinsberg also tested positive for the new coronavirus at the weekend, apparently contracted through a member of staff.
 
Organisers of the Leipzig book fair however said the event, which attracted over 280,000 people last year, would go ahead as planned from March 12-15.   
 
Germany has cancelled several major events in a bid to curb the spread of the virus, including this week's ITB travel trade fair in Berlin.
   
The Michelin Guide restaurant star rating awards slated to take place in Hamburg on Tuesday have also been called off.
   
As the coronavirus continues to disrupt air travel and supply chains around the world, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the government stood ready to stimulate Germany's export-driven economy if the impact worsened.
   
“If the situation calls for it, we have the means to launch a fiscal stimulus package,” he told Die Welt newspaper.

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COVID-19

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. 

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