German footballer contracts coronavirus as more games forced behind closed doors

A second division footballer was on Wednesday the first player to test positive for coronavirus in Germany as RB Leipzig became the latest Bundesliga side to announce that they would hold their weekend match behind closed doors.

German footballer contracts coronavirus as more games forced behind closed doors
Timo Hübers, on the right, tested positive for coronavirus. Photo: DPA

Hanover 96 revealed that defender Timo Hübers had tested positive for COVID-19, saying in a statement that they insisted that no further infections were expected, as Hübers had avoided contact with his colleagues.

Their full squad and training staff were however being tested as a precaution.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

“As soon as he found out that someone with whom he had been at an event was tested positive, Timo went straight to the doctor and put himself into isolation,” said Hanover's sporting director Gerhard Zuber.

Leipzig's announcement that their clash with Freiburg would be closed to fans comes after similar announcements involving title rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Moenchengladbach earlier on Wednesday.

“Despite very few infected people in the Leipzig area, we want to minimise the health risk,” said sporting director Oliver Mintzlaff in a statement.

Leipzig allowed fans to attend their Champions League victory over Tottenham on Tuesday night, even after authorities elsewhere in the country ordered stadium closures.

READ ALSO: Berlin cancels large cultural events over virus fears

Events cancelled

As the number of confirmed infections in Germany continues to rise, federal states in the country are taking measures to cancel public events and slow the spread of the virus.

On Sunday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn called for all events with more than 1,000 people to be cancelled “until further notice”.

But the decision to close stadium doors rests ultimately with regional authorities and is made on a case-by-case basis.

Fans will also be absent for Bayern Munich's visit to Union Berlin on Saturday, after officials in the German capital ordered the club to close its doors on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, Eintracht Frankfurt announced Wednesday that they would play their Bundesliga home clash with Borussia Moenchengladbach on Sunday without fans.

Yet in a joint press conference with city health officials, the club also said that the stadium would remain open for Thursday's Europa League clash with Swiss side Basel.

Mönchengladbach's home ground is in North Rhine-Westphalia state, where the biggest number of coronavirus infections in Germany have been reported.

Of 1,296 infections across the country, more than 600 were registered in the state, which is Germany's most populous.

Other games affected in North-Rhine Westphalia this week include the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke and the Rhine derby between Mönchengladbach and Cologne.

The latter game, scheduled for Wednesday night, will be the first in the history of the German league to be played without fans.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: What are the restrictions to daily life in Germany?

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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.