LATEST: Nearly three-quarters of new Covid-19 cases in Germany from more-contagious variant

On Thursday, German health authorities registered a leap in new Covid-19 infections, as the percentage of cases coming from mutations also shot up.

LATEST: Nearly three-quarters of new Covid-19 cases in Germany from more-contagious variant
Two signs in Dresden on Thursday direct people to either a centre for a coronavirus vaccine, or test. Photo: DPA

The more contagious B.1.1.7 variant originally detected in the UK now accounts for 72 percent of all cases in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Thursday. 

Last week, the RKI was still talking about a B.1.1.7 share of about 55 percent. At the beginning of the RKI survey about one and a half months ago, the share of the mutant stood at only about six percent. 

A rapid increase in Germany had been feared following similar experiences in other countries, including the UK, South Africa, Czech Republic and Slovakia. 

Due to the now high proportion of B.1.1.7, an exponential increase in the number of coronavirus cases in Germany is to be expected, said the RKI earlier this week. They predicted that by Easter, numbers would be higher than they were around Christmas, when Germany first introduced a harder shutdown.

READ ALSO: German coronavirus cases ‘will be higher at Easter than before Christmas’

What are the current Covid-19 numbers?

The number of new infections as of Thursday (17,504) is 3,000 higher than a week ago, reported the RKI. However, the number of deaths from or with the coronavirus stood at 272, down from 321 a week ago.

The 7-day incidence of new infections per 100,000 residents grew to 90 as of Thursday, up from 86.2 on Wednesday, and 69.1 exactly a week before. The incidence rate marks the highest level since February 2nd. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, German health authorities have counted 2,612,268 coronavirus infections, and a total of 74,132 deaths from or with the virus. 

This graph shows where in Germany has had the highest 7-day incidence as of Wednesday. Credit: DPA

Could Germany introduce a new vaccine?

After the temporary halt of AstraZeneca jabs on Monday, more German politicians are promoting the Russian vaccine Sputnik V in order to more quickly vaccinate the population. 

Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised every resident a vaccine by September, but a slow start to the vaccine campaign and fears over whether the widespread AstraZeneca jab could cause blood clots has cast doubt on the speed of the roll out. 

READ ALSO: Germany suspends AstraZeneca vaccine over blood clot concerns

“The (Sputnik V) vaccine should be approved. Russia is a great country of science, and I have not the slightest doubt that the science there is capable of producing a powerful vaccine,” Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU) told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe on Thursday. 

Like Kretschmer, Saxony-Anhalt’s state premier Reiner Haseloff (CDU) pointed out that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would first have to decide on the approval.

“Basically, however, the following applies: in the fight against coronavirus, we welcome any vaccine that is safe and effective and thus helps us to overcome the pandemic,” he told the Funke-Zeitung. 

“When it comes to people’s health, origin should not play a role.”

Thuringia’s state premier Bodo Ramelow (Left Party) told the Funke-Blättern: “For a long time, I’ve been wishing for much more pressure from the federal government to get more alternative vaccines approved.”

The EMA was set to release its decision on AstraZeneca Thursday afternoon at 4 pm. 

READ ALSO: German vaccine boss praises Russian vaccine as ‘clever’

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Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.