More than 350 households ordered to quarantine in Berlin district

More than 50 people are confirmed to have coronavirus and hundreds have been ordered to quarantine after an outbreak in Berlin.

More than 350 households ordered to quarantine in Berlin district
Several buildings are affected in Berlin's Neukölln district. Photo: DPA

The outbreak has led to people living in apartment buildings in the Berlin-Neukölln district having to self-isolate. Among those affected belong to a Sinti and Roma housing project in the area.

As of Tuesday June 16th, 57 people were confirmed to have contracted coronavirus. The local health authorities have urged a total of 369 households to quarantine in a bid to control the outbreak.

The affected people live in 13 buildings in seven locations, said Berlin health councillor Falko Liecke.

The district could not say the exact number of people in quarantine. Authorities also announced that 265 tests are still pending and that the results should be available within the next three days.

So far, most people suffering from coronavirus have shown mild symptoms.

Liecke said the focus was on informing those affected by the outbreak. Social work teams who have been established in the neighbourhood for some time are helping with this task, along with translators when needed.

READ ALSO: Berlin's coronavirus reproductive number is rising. What does it mean?

District mayor Martin Hike said it was easy for the virus to spread in blocks of flats, especially where there are cramped conditions.

“From the ski clubs, the virus has now arrived at the tenement buildings,” said Hikel, commenting on the fact the virus first spread to Europe through ski resorts.

As The Local has reported, some German health authorities have been sending out quarantine orders to people living in apartments in a bid to control the spread of the virus.

READ ALSO: How worried should we be when Germany reports a higher coronavirus infection rate?

Earlier in June, hundreds of people had to self-isolate in a Göttingen housing complex after 68 people were confirmed to have coronavirus.

There have also been outbreaks linked to cramp accommodation for workers of meat processing plants, which led to the government calling for an overhaul of housing conditions and the industry.

Localised outbreaks in Germany have also been linked to church services and restaurant visits.

As of Tuesday, there had been around 7,369 recorded Covid-19 infections since the start of the epidemic in Berlin, a city of around 3 million people. There have been more than 200 deaths.

In the whole of Germany, there have been around 188,200 confirmed cases, with an increase of around 270 more compared to the previous day, and more than 8,800 deaths

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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.