Covid-19 variants comprise ‘almost 90 percent of new cases in Germany’

First discovered in the UK, the highly contagious coronavirus variant B.1.1.7 is spreading rapidly in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Covid-19 variants comprise 'almost 90 percent of new cases in Germany'
A woman receives a coronavirus test at a testing centre in Norddeich, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

The variant has now reached 88 percent of all reported cases, the RKI said on Wednesday evening, citing laboratory tests conducted last week between March 22nd and 28th. That’s up from three-quarters of new cases of March 18th.

The spread of the variant is worrying, the RKI said in its latest situation report, because “according to current knowledge, it is significantly more contagious and probably causes more severe courses of disease than other variants”.

Further increases in Covid-19 cases in hospitals are therefore to be expected, reported the RKI.

On Thursday, the RKI reported 24,300 new Covid-19 infections within 24 hours, as well as 201 deaths from or with the virus. 

Exactly a week ago, the RKI had recorded 22,657 new infections and 228 new deaths within one day.

According to the institute, the number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide was 134.2 on Thursday morning – slightly above the level of the previous day (132.3).

This graph (credit: DPA) shows where in Germany has the highest seven-day incidence of Covid-19 cases.

Can vaccines protect against the variant?

All vaccines available in Germany provide very good protection against illness caused by B.1.1.7 and also against severe illness caused by two other variants, according to the RKI.

READ ALSO: German biotech firm boss ‘confident’ vaccine is effective against new Covid-variant

On Thursday, however, Germany’s BioNTech/Pfizer also said their Covid-19 vaccine was highly effective against the South African variant B.1.351 in the latest phase of ongoing clinical trials.

B.1.351 is not widespread in Germany, however: it was detected in 0.8 percent of the positive samples tested for it in Germany, and the variant P.1, which circulates strongly in Brazil, was detected in only 0.1 percent. 

The increase in new infections overall and that caused by the highly contagious variant B 1.1.7. will lead to a “significant increase” in the number of Covid-19 patients seen in clinics, according to the RKI.

Are more cases related to more testing?

According to RKI findings, the rising number of reported new coronavirus infections is not attributable to an increasing number of rapid tests being rolled out.

Between March 8th and 14th, when weekly free rapid tests were introduced in Germany, 4.4 percent of laboratory-confirmed PCR tests were positive, according to RKI data. These were often taken following a positive test result from a rapid test.

READ ALSO: ‘Schnell’ vs. ‘Selbst’: The key differences between Germany’s new Covid-19 tests

This proportion climbed slightly to 5.5 percent (March 15th-21st) and most recently to six percent (March 22nd-28th). 

The RKI has logged a total of 2,833,173 confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany since the pandemic began. The actual total number is likely to be significantly higher, as many infections are not detected. 

It has also recorded a total of 76,589 deaths from or with the virus.

Member comments

  1. The longer a virus circulates, the greater the chances of a mutation. The German government has one single thing to get right to mitigate this risk; vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate, yet this appears to be beyond them. How long before other countries shut their borders to Germans because of “the German variant?”

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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.