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ANALYSIS: Why have the number of Covid-19 deaths in Germany increased so quickly?

Germany on Wednesday reported its highest ever daily coronavirus death toll. What's going on?

ANALYSIS: Why have the number of Covid-19 deaths in Germany increased so quickly?
Staff members at an old people's home in Tübingen. Photo: DPA

During the first coronavirus wave, Germany was largely praised for its handling of the pandemic and its lower death rate than other countries.

However, now after weeks of a partial lockdown (in place since November 2nd) the country is tightening measures as it grapples with rising cases once again – and a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 deaths.

On Wednesday, December 16th – the same day that Germany introduced new tougher lockdown measures in a bid to gain control over the situation – the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said 952 people had died in connection with Covid-19 within 24 hours.

This is the highest number of deaths recorded in a 24-hour period. It's an increase of almost 60 percent on the previous highest death toll (598) recorded on Friday December 11th.

To put it into perspective: in purely mathematical terms, one person in Germany died from or due to complications from the virus every 1.5 minutes, reported Welt on Wednesday.

But why the sharp increase in deaths?

One reason for the higher number is linked to distorted figures. No data from the eastern state of Saxony was available on Tuesday, so it was submitted late. The RKI said 153 new deaths were logged in Saxony.

On Tuesday, the newly reported deaths climbed to 500 and therefore, even without the missing Saxony data, it was the third highest number of daily deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

However, the main reason for the increasing number of daily deaths is most likely due to the steep increase in new infections, and more older people picking up the disease.

READ ALSO: Germany sees record death toll on first day of new lockdown measures

On Wednesday, for example, the number of Covid-19 infections went up by by 27,728 within 24 hours, which is about 7,000 more compared to a week ago.

The total number of people who have died from or with a confirmed Covid-19 infection rose to 23,427 on Wednesday.

According to the RKI, coronavirus deaths are counted as those in which infection with the virus was the cause of death or in which it is likely, due to previous illnesses, that the death was directly related to Covid-19.

The city centre in Nuremberg on Wednesday early morning. Photo: DPA

What else do we know about the latest deaths and infections?

According to the RKI's latest situation report, 4,735 Covid-19 patients were being treated in intensive care, with 2,679 people on ventilation.

The institute notes numerous clusters, especially in private households and old people's and nursing homes, but also in professional contexts and in community facilities, such as kindergartens and schools. Infections are also originating from religious events.

For a large amount of the cases, the infection origin could not be determined due to a lack of contact tracing.

The RKI emphasises that it considers the risk to the health of the population in Germany as a whole to be very high.

More outbreaks among older people

While the seven-day incidence in younger age groups is stagnating or slightly decreasing according to the RKI report, it continues to rise in the older population.

The 7-day incidence of people over the age of 60 is currently 164 cases per 100,000 people, says the RKI.

Since older people are more frequently affected by Covid-19, the number of severe cases and deaths is also going up.

Since the beginning of September, a significant increase in the number of deaths can be seen in Germany.

The virus is particularly life-threatening for the very old: of all deaths, 19,663 (88 percent) were among people aged 70 and older, with a median age of 83. However, this age group accounts for only 13 percent of all cases.

Since the start of the pandemic in spring, 12 Covid-19 deaths in people under 20 have been reported to the RKI.

Should Germany have issued tougher lockdown measures earlier?

There's been a debate over whether Germany should have done more to help ease the deteriorating situation.

Now a new study has found that most Germans believe the tougher measures should have come earlier.

READ ALSO: Germany's tougher Christmas lockdown rules are the right move – but should they have come sooner?

According to the poll by the opinion research institute Forsa on behalf of the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, 81 percent of Germans “regret that the measures that have now been adopted were not taken a few weeks ago in view of the increase in the number of infections”.

Meanwhile, 68 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds think the measures are right, and another 19 percent would have preferred even stricter regulations.

Only twelve percent of young adults reject the measures. Among all age groups, 63 percent of respondents approve of the regulations, another 22 per cent even think they should have been stricter.

The survey polled 1,002 citizens on Tuesday.

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‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.


Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music