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ANALYSIS

Fact check: What’s the latest on Covid-19 (and the new variant) in Germany?

As Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders decide on Germany's lockdown, we look at what the facts of the coronavirus situation are right now.

Fact check: What's the latest on Covid-19 (and the new variant) in Germany?
A person walking past a shop sign in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Germany was on Tuesday January 5th set to extend lockdown measures until at least the end of the month. However, there are calls for it to be extended further, and for tougher restrictions.

READ ALSO: Germany set to prolong lockdown measures as Covid-19 deaths surge

What's the latest?

Germany is still struggling with a high number of coronavirus deaths and cases.

“Currently, the number of transmissions in the population in Germany is high,” says the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in its latest situation report. The RKI judges the level of threat to the health of the general population as “very high”.

On Tuesday Germany reported 11,897 new coronavirus infections within a day. And 944 people died within the same time period.

As this graph shows, the number of deaths during the second wave so far is extremely high compared to previous months.

The RKI says this is down to more older people becoming infected by Covid-19, and outbreaks in care homes.

In general, interpreting the data at the moment is a bit difficult because coronavirus cases are being detected, recorded and transmitted with a delay around Christmas and the turn of the year.

A record high of 1,129 deaths in 24 highs was recorded in Germany on Wednesday December 30th. The highest number of new infections registered within 24 hours – 33,777 – was reported on December 18th.

Officials are also worried about the impact of holiday travel and socialising over Christmas and New Year.

That won't be known until mid-January.

What else should we know?

The average number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days (the seven-day incidence) was 134.7 on Tuesday morning. German officials want to get that number down to 50 new infections per 100,000 residents in seven days.

A record incidence of 197.6 was logged on December 22nd.

However, there are large differences between federal states. The highest incidences on Tuesday were in Saxony with 298.7 and Thuringia with 241.8. The lowest value was in Schleswig-Holstein with 77.1.

The RKI has logged 1,787,410 Covid-19 infections in Germany since the beginning of the pandemic. The total number of people who have died from or with Covid-19 has risen to 35,518. The RKI says the number of people who've recovered is around 1.4 million.

The nationwide seven-day reproductive number is around 0.85. This means that 100 people with Covid-19 are said to go on and infect 85 others.

The value represents the infection rate between eight and 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a longer period of time, the incidence of infection is decreasing. The RKI stated that the R-value may be underestimated due to delays.

How many Covid-19 patients are in intensive care in Germany?

There are currently 5,744 coronavirus patients in ICU in Germany, according to the RKI. A total of 3,211 people are on ventilation.

How many people have been vaccinated?

Since December 26th, around 265,986 people in Germany have been vaccinated against Covid-19. 

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to improve Covid-19 vaccine rollout in January

What do the coronavirus mutations mean for Germany?

Scientists stress that the new variant, originally detected in the UK, could make it more difficult to contain the pandemic.

Based on available data it seems likely it will soon be the dominant variant in Germany, virologist Jörg Timm from the University Hospital in Düsseldorf told Welt.

“I think a reduction in the number of cases is fundamentally necessary for sustainable infection control,” said Timm. “If the data on the increased contagiousness of the new variant is correct – and I assume it is – then the task will certainly become more difficult.”

READ ALSO: How long will Germany's tough lockdown measures be in place?

Social Democrats (SPD) health expert Karl Lauterbach also said current measures do not go far enough, particularly due to the threat of the new virus variant.

In the case of Sars-CoV-2, mutations have apparently made the virus easier to transmit. The variant, B.1.1.7 was initially detected in the UK, but has since been confirmed in several other countries, including Germany.

Meanwhile, South Africa reported another variant, 501Y.V2, in mid-December. Although the two variants are genetically similar, according to the World Health Organisation, they arose independently of each other.

It is not entirely clear how widespread the B.1.1.7 variant already is in Germany. One reason is because the make-up of the virus detected in people is deciphered much less frequently than in the UK, said Welt.

So far, only isolated cases of the variant have been reported, including in the states of Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia. However, the RKI expects the numbers will significantly increase.

Experts currently do not believe that the coronavirus vaccines approved will be less effective against the two variants.

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CULTURE

‘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.

READ ALSO: 

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

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