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COVID-19

Almost entirety of Austria and Italy now considered by Germany as ‘risk areas’

An updated list of travel “risk areas” published by the Robert Koch Institute on Friday has put almost the entirety of Austria and Italy on the list. In the EU, only Estonia now has no regions which are considered high risk.

Almost entirety of Austria and Italy now considered by Germany as 'risk areas'
Photo: DPA

The RKI has declared Austria, with the exception of two small exclaves, and almost all of Italy to be corona risk areas from this Sunday because of their sharply rising infection rates.

In Austria, Carinthia was previously the only federal state excluded from the RKI’s list. 

Now there are only two exemptions for Kleinwalsertal and the municipality of Jungholz, with a total of 5,000 inhabitants. Both are exclaves which can only be reached by road from Germany.

In Italy, Calabria in the south of the country is now the only region that is not a risk area.

MUST READ: German police probe arson attack on RKI as Covid-19 tensions mount

Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Cyprus have now been put on the list as entirely high risk.

For the first time, regions in Greece and Latvia have been classified as risk areas. More regions have been added in Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Lithuania. The small states of Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican are now also risk areas.

The classification as a risk area and the automatically associated travel warnings by the Foreign Office are not a travel ban, but are meant to provide the greatest possible deterrent to tourists. 

 

The good news for tourists is that they can cancel trips that have already been booked if their destination is declared a risk area. The bad news is that returnees from the risk areas must go into quarantine for 14 days, although a negative test can end the quarantine.

A country or region is classified as a risk area if it exceeds the threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days. Large parts of Germany are also risk areas according to this criteria.

In Portugal, the Centro region has been added to the list. The entire southern half of Portugal including the Algarve – a popular vacation destination remains “risk-free.”

In Estonia, the Jogeva region has been removed from the risk list, making Estonia the only country in the EU without a risk area from Sunday. 

Of the other 25 EU countries, 17 will then be completely classified as risk areas and eight as partial risk zones.

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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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