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COVID-19

LATEST: What is the current coronavirus situation around Germany?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Friday said it saw "signals of a trend reversal" in declining Covid-19 cases in Germany, but also saw signs of hope in new measures being taken.

LATEST: What is the current coronavirus situation around Germany?
An Aldi cashier in Essen demonstrates a check out with at-home coronavirus tests. Photo: DPA

On Friday RKI president Lothar Wieler said that he expected the more contagious British mutant to gain the upper hand soon.

 “It is foreseeable that B.1.1.7 will soon be the predominant variant in Germany,” Wieler said at a press conference in Berlin. “Then it will be even more difficult to keep the virus in check.” 

The variant discovered in the U.K. is “even more contagious and even more dangerous,” he said. Recently German Health Minister Jens Spahn said that the variant accounted for about one fifth of new cases in Germany. 

READ ALSO: UK coronavirus variant spreading rapidly in Germany, warns Health Minister

The number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days (7-day incidence) has risen again, and too many deaths with or from the virus are still being recorded – or 264 in the past 24 hours as of Friday morning, Wieler said. 

According to RKI data from Friday, there were 10,580 new coronavirus infections within one day in Germany. Exactly one week ago, the daily figure had been 9,997 new infections. 

The seven-day incidence was 65.4 nationwide on Friday morning, according to the RKI, up slightly from around 64 the previous week. 

The common goal, he said, is a spring with as few new cases, severe courses of the virus, and deaths as possible. “We can achieve that,” he added.

He called for people to continue adhering to coronavirus measures – many which are being relaxed as of next Monday March 8th – and to take advantage of vaccines being offered. 

“The vaccines and everyone who’s getting vaccinated are showing us the way out of this pandemic,” said Wieler.

Spahn added that there would be “more than enough rapid tests,” for regular Covid-19 testing, adding that many states are setting up centres as of Monday where free, government funded tests are available.

As of Monday, all German residents will qualify for one free test per week, said Spahn.

Furthermore, drugstores and supermarkets around the country will soon begin selling at-home tests, starting with discounter Aldi on Saturday. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about buying (and using) Germany’s new at-home Covid-19 tests

Light at the end of the tunnel?

The current coronavirus figures are significantly lower than they were earlier in the winter. Four weeks ago on February 5th Germany had a 7-day infection rate of 79.9. 

The peak of 1,244 newly reported deaths was reached on January 14th. The highest number of new infections registered within 24 hours was 33,777 on December 18th.

On Wednesday Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state premieres hammered out a five-step plan to slowly reopen public life in Germany, largely dependent on new case numbers.

Starting on Monday, flower shops, home appliance stores and bookstores will be able to reopen their doors under strict restrictions. 

Two households of up to five people, not including children under 14, are allowed to meet. 

READ ALSO: Merkel declares ‘new phase of pandemic’ with gradual easing of Covid-19 measures

Vocabulary

Keep in check – im Zaum halten

Trend reversal – (die) Trendumkehr

Foreseeable – absehbar 

take advantage – wahrnehmen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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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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