Covid-19 cases in Germany ‘still far too high’ but shutdown having an impact, says RKI boss

The daily number of new coronavirus infections in Germany remains high but the country's partial lockdown is having a positive effect, the head of the Robert Koch Institute disease control centre said on Thursday.

Covid-19 cases in Germany 'still far too high' but shutdown having an impact, says RKI boss
RKI chief Lothar Wieler speaking on Thursday. Photo: DPA

“The situation…is still serious, very serious,” Lothar Wieler told a press conference.

The good news is, however, that the figures have “stabilised at a high level in the last weeks and are not rising any further”, he said. “But we do not know whether this is a trend reversal. We'll have to wait and see.”

It is possible that hospitals will soon reach their limits, said Wieler. It is therefore necessary to bring the number of cases back to a controllable level.

“The goal is to have as few new infections as possible,” said the RKI head, adding that at the moment Germany is seeing a plateau.

“However, I am optimistic that the case numbers will decrease in the next few weeks, the plateau shows that the measures are working,” Wieler said. However, he warned that there is a two-week delay and the situation would have to be watched closely.

READ ALSO: Is the coronavirus situation in Germany improving?

Wieler also pointed out that the numbers of severe infections and intensive care patients had increased. And he is concerned about more patients dying. He said “the number of deaths remains very high”.

On Thursday morning, the RKI reported 22,609 new infections in 24 hours. That's about 5,000 cases more than the day before.

The number of deaths due to Covid-19 rose by 251 in a day to 13,370. In total 855,916 cases of infection have been registered in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. Around 562,700 people have recovered.

Looking ahead to Christmas and a vaccine

As far as Christmas is concerned, it is not yet possible to say exactly what the situation will be like in Germany.

However, Wieler encouraged people to do a 14-day quarantine before visiting family. “According to the current state of knowledge, this would be the period in which one would have to be in quarantine,” he said.

When asked what he thinks about the first results of vaccine research becoming available, Wieler replied: “I find that very positive. The data is extremely encouraging.”

He revealed he was surprised that the results had been made available so quickly. It's clear that the moment a vaccine is approved, the pandemic can be controlled much better, he said, adding that a vaccine would be “quite an outstanding weapon”.


On the subject of introducing further measures, Wieler said he believed there was no reason to close schools and daycare centres in general. “We can manage it,” he said.

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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.