German virologist warns of ‘permanent lockdown’ amid rising Covid infections

German virologist warns of 'permanent lockdown' amid rising Covid infections
File photo shows an intensive care patient and staff member in Rostock, Germany, in January 2021. Photo: DPA
How can Germany control the rising number of coronavirus infections? As arguments over the best course of action continue, one German virologist says the country could face further months of harsh measures.

What’s happening?

With an increasing number of patients being admitted to intensive care units, rising infections and not enough vaccinations, Germany is trying to manage another Covid-19 resurgence.

On Friday 25,464 new Covid cases and 296 deaths were reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within the last 24 hours.

The number of cases per 100,000 residents within a seven-day period stood at 110.4.

It comes after lower numbers were registered this week, partly due to less testing and reporting being carried out over the Easter long weekend.

So, does the country need a tougher lockdown? Or is the so-called emergency brake mechanism (bringing in tougher measures like curfews when infections rise) enough to get the situation under control?

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And what about reopening projects like the one in Saarland? In the tiny western state, gyms, restaurants and museums are open to people who can show a recent negative Covid test result.

READ ALSO: ‘Taste of freedom’: German state begins reopening public life despite rising Covid cases

So there are a lot of different opinions on what Germany should do right now…

Yes. In a heated debate on German broadcaster ZDF on Thursday, Saarland premier Tobias Hans (CDU), defended the state’s decision to open up public life, reported Welt.

Hans said it’s important to remember that Saarland is not simply opening up blindly – but that “contact restrictions are replaced by testing requirements, and thus we create incentives for testing”.

Hamburg mayor Peter Tschentscher (SPD) said this approach was a “mistake” as infections are “increasing everywhere”.

“We need a few weeks to come down, and then, safely accompanied by rapid tests, further opening steps can be advocated,” said the Hamburg mayor who has introduced a curfew in the Hanseatic city in a bid to bring down numbers.

What are scientists saying?

High profile German virologist Melanie Brinkmann said during the debate that science had warned weeks and months ago of this situation concerning the more contagious variant B.1.1.7 that originated in the UK.

“We made a clear appeal in January that this new variant was coming, that it would overtake, displace the virus that circulated before it, and that it had characteristics that would make it really hard for us to fight the pandemic again,” Brinkmann said. “And that was not heard. You just have to say that plainly.”

Instead, she said, the opposite was done: opening steps were allowed to happen when there were still too many infections spreading. 

German virologist Melanie Brinkmann. Photo: DPA

The situation today is much more difficult, Brinkmann said, despite the inoculation campaign. “Vaccination is there, but it is too slow and will not be able to stop this third wave,” she said, adding that testing alone is not enough.

Brinkmann also said a long-term perspective is missing from the current management.

“What’s actually going to happen in a few months? Surely with the strategy we’re following at the moment, I’ll be in a permanent lockdown for the rest of the year, if I’m unlucky,” she said.

What do doctors have to say?

Cihan Çelik, senior doctor at a Covid-19 ward in Darmstadt, provided a perspective from his ward, where staff are preparing for a further increase in patient numbers.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid intensive care numbers stay above 4,000

He said there have been patient transfers across Germany, as some intensive care units can no longer accept Covid patients.

According to the RKI, on April 8th there were 4,474 Covid-19 patients in intensive care, with 509 new admissions.

Çelik said there was still a small amount of time before all Covid wards are at capacity, but warned that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later. 

He said the average age on the ward had “dropped to 56” signalling that more younger people are getting infected.

In the direction of politics, he expressed a clear wish: “We as doctors would really like to get ahead of this virus for once, precisely because we have now had no breathing space before the third wave, to really get out of it with a low incidence.”


Member comments

  1. None of these politicians are actual leaders. They care if people like them and are their ‘friends’. They missed opportunities to make headway in January, and now we are in trouble becuase no one wants to be accountable if things go bad. Things went bad and apparently no one is to blame, pathetic.

    At this point they have lost the support of the public, they have lost the war against the virus. They best start planning how to expand the covid wards becuase with the lack of leadership this is the only sure thing they can plan on.

  2. Germany had the solution in its hands at the start of the year…..VACCINATIONS!! Do not blame the EU / Astra Zeneca / the weather on the appalling lack of progress on this front. It is due 100% to poor decision making, over-thinking and procrastination. You reap what you sow. I’m amazed that the population is so tolerant of such incompetence.

  3. Permanent lockdown? Is this some bad joke? Am I living in a nightmare? Why use such language? What purpose does it serve? Figure out the vaccine deal with Russia or get more vaccines elsewhere, get people vaccinated (maybe start vaccinating younger people since they have the most contacts and are the ones spreading the virus), so we can all move on with our lives asap. Those of us with anxiety and depression can’t handle a permanent lockdown. Not sure who can..

    1. I need to get back to work, & to do that I need to travel. So I need the jab. Don’t Jab the younger people, instead bring in harsher penalties on the Parents to actually BE Parents. If you just jab anybody who does not comply to the Rules, you reward them & punish those of us who are being careful!

        1. Totally agree. Whatever it takes is fine by me. I appreciate that certain areas of the production needs expert people, but packaging, distribution.. we would all help, I’m sure

        2. Ok, appreciate the clarification, but I’m over 40, & many of the people I (used to) work with are also over 40 & need to travel to work. They need to get rid of this “Over X age” as soon as possible, jab everyone who is most at risk, & then jab workers of any age.

          1. Ok, I understand where you’re coming from. Why can’t they produce more vaccines if there’s a shortage? During WWII in the US and in Russia regular people had to work to build tanks and weapons, etc. Why not do this now? And get everyone unemployed to work to produce these vaccines if they can’t agree with Russia on Sputnik. Or just find the money and buy more. I really don’t understand the holdup.

  4. I wish I could home, but I’m stationed here and cannot leave. I always thought Germans were so efficient. What a mess they are. I haven’t seen my parents in nearly 2 years now and these German tyrants won’t let them come visit me even though they are totally vaccinated. Totally illogical.

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