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HEALTH

LATEST: German coronavirus spread worsens as lockdown eases

First signs that transmission of the novel coronavirus has again picked up were visible in German official data, just as the country attempts a cautious easing of its lockdown measures.

LATEST: German coronavirus spread worsens as lockdown eases
Passersby in a shopping area of Dortmund on Saturday. Photo: DPA

The reproduction or infection rate under close watch by health authorities mounted again to around 1.0, meaning each infected person passes the virus on to one other, figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control showed late Tuesday.

Ministers and virologists have hammered home the importance of squeezing the number below 1.0.

RKI President Lothar Wieler made an urgent appeal after the data was released. “We do not want to have more Covid-19 cases again,” he said in Berlin on Tuesday.
 
“Let us continue to stay at home as much as possible, keep observing the restrictions and keep a distance of 1.5 metres from one another,” said Wieler.
 
“We all need to take care that we don't end up with more infections,” he said, adding that Germany's response to the virus so far had been a “success” which needed to be “defended”.
 
A growing rate
 
Germany has seen days of intense media and political debate after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Germany's federal states against loosening their lockdowns too quickly.

READ ALSO: 'The situation is fragile': Merkel urges Germans to stick to coronavirus restrictions

Since mid-April, the infection rate had sunk as low as 0.7 before inching back up again.

Yet Wieler insisted on Tuesday that the infection rate should not be taken out of context and “should only be looked at alongside other figures”.

“Another important figure is the number of new infections per day,” he said, a number which had fallen to just over 1,000 this week, having been twice or four times as high in weeks gone by.

The drop in new infections means that officials are now able to carry out
contact tracing again — something that had been abandoned in March when cases were rising too quickly.

Meanwhile the mortality rate from the disease has also been rising day by day, in part due to more outbreaks in elderly and care homes, according to the RKI.

By Tuesday, it had reached 3.8 percent according to RKI figures, which remains well below some neighbouring countries such as France.

As of Tuesday at 9 am, there were over 158,700 confirmed coronavirus cases and 6,126 deaths, according to figures from John Hopkins University. which reports a slightly higher number of figures than the RKI due to calculating data in real time throughout the day. 

'Under control'

Rising infection and mortality rates could pose a puzzle for authorities, as a population chafing at lockdown measures is just beginning to enjoy some refound freedoms and an initial united front in politics and media crumbles.

Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier in April declared the pandemic “under control” in Germany, as Merkel and state premiers agreed smaller shops could open from last week and some pupils return to school from next Monday.

READ ALSO: Germany starts to slowly open up as coronavirus deemed 'under control'

Meanwhile some major businesses like car giant Volkswagen have restarted production in recent days.

Now the less encouraging data will flow into the chancellor's deliberations with regional leaders on Thursday, ahead of a new round of lockdown decisions on May 6th.

Until now, the May 6th gathering had been expected to bring further easing of restrictions.

Merkel's pleas not to rush a step-by-step unwinding of lockdown for fear of again worsening the virus' spread were dismissed or even blasted as authoritarian by some voices in media and the opposition.

“Even if we assume that one person infects 1.1 others, we would reach the limits of what our health system and intensive care beds can manage in October,” she warned earlier this month.

“If we assume a rate of 1.2… we would reach the health system's limit in July. And with a rate of 1.3 — it doesn't sound like much — we would get there in June already,” she added.

Currently there are still sufficient intensive care beds and breathing stations in hospitals, Wieler said on Tuesday. 

 

Member comments

  1. I live just North of Dortmund. Seeing what I have in recent Days, the Photo of the Main Shopping Street in the Center does not surprise me one bit.

  2. Yeah,Lüneburg was also full on Sat. Don’t see this getting better with this kind of behavior going on.

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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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