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HEALTH

‘Half of coronavirus patients’ in Germany given ventilation died

One in five patients hospitalised in Germany over the coronavirus succumbed to the disease, with the fatality rate rising to 53 percent for those who received ventilation, a study showed Wednesday.

'Half of coronavirus patients' in Germany given ventilation died
An emergency room in the University Hospital of Mainz. Photo: DPA

Data of 10,000 patients admitted to 930 German hospitals between February 26th and April 19th were analysed by the German Interdisciplinary Association of Critical Care and Emergency Medicine, the Technical University of Berlin and AOK health insurance group's research arm WIdO.

Hospitalised male patients had a higher mortality rate than women, with 25 percent compared to 19 percent.

READ ALSO: Explained: Why is the coronavirus mortality rate in Germany rising?

Older patients were also significantly more vulnerable, as 27 percent of patients in their 70s died while 38 percent of those above 80 years old failed to pull through.

“These high mortality rates clearly show that a relatively high number of patients with a very serious course of disease were treated in hospitals,” said Jürgen Klauber, director of WIdO.

“Such serious course of diseases mainly affect older people and people whose health is already compromised, but also occur in younger patients,” he warned, urging the population to take necessary precautions to prevent new infections.

Of the 10,021 patients, 1,727 were given mechanical ventilation. While almost twice as many who received ventilation were men, the mortality rates were similar gender-wise, the study said.

Patients were staying in hospitals for an average of 14 days, with those not on ventilation hospitalised for an average of 12 days while the duration for those who needed help breathing rose to 25 days.

Reinhard Busse, professor of healthcare management at TU Berlin, noted that on average, 240 days of ventilation would be required for every 100 hospitalised patients.

“These are important numbers to prepare for a second wave of the pandemic. However, we do not anticipate any problems with normal hospital beds, even with high infection rates,” he added.

Thanks to its decentralised healthcare system, Germany has been able to significantly ramp up its capacity to treat COVID-19 patients, avoiding scenes like in Italy where some hospitals were overwhelmed by the sudden huge caseload.

However, health experts have urged against complacency, with the head of the RKI disease control agency, Lothar Wieler, repeatedly urging the population to keep to hygiene rules like social distancing or mask wearing.

With the summer holiday season in full swing, politicians are also watching anxiously at infection numbers which have ticked up in recent weeks.

As of Wednesday, Germany has recorded 206,926 cases of infections including 9,128 deaths.

READ ALSO: Germany 'greatly concerned' as coronavirus cases grow

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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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