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Covid-19 variant from India detected ‘only sporadically’ in Germany, says RKI

Health experts say the Covid-19 variant that originated in India does not appear to have spread widely in Germany so far.

Covid-19 variant from India detected 'only sporadically' in Germany, says RKI
A negative coronavirus rapid test in Dresden, Saxony. Photo: DPA

Acording to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), evidence of the Indian coronavirus variant B.1.617 in Germany remains relatively low.

So far, it has been discovered “only sporadically”, 22 times in a week in examined samples, according to an RKI report published on Wednesday evening. In the previous week, the institute said they had found it 21 times.

“We have isolated cases in Germany, we will release a new report tomorrow,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute infectious disease agency, told reporters when asked about the B.1.617 variant.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday that the variant had been detected in “at least 17 countries”.

German media said Cologne reported two cases with the variant. According to broadcaster WDR both of those affected had recently returned from India.

The variant was also discovered in two returning travellers in Baden-Württemberg.

India is experiencing a dramatic surge in Covid cases, with hundreds of thousands of infections being reported daily among its population of 1.38 billion people. Several countries, including Germany, are providing medical supplies and support.

Germany banned travel from India earlier this week, allowing only citizens and residents to enter.

READ ALSO: Germany restricts travel from ‘high risk’ India

‘No weakening’ of British variant

The RKI report states that the dominance of the particularly contagious variant B.1.1.7, which originated in the UK and has been fuelling the third wave Germany, remains the dominant strain in the Bundesrepublik.

The RKI said there is “no weakening” of the prevalence of this variant in Germany.

In the two other variants from South Africa (B.1.351) and Brazil (P.1), which are also classified as worrying, the proportions remain consistently low in Germany, at one percent and less, data shows.

In Germany, however, only a fraction of the samples are examined for variants using so-called whole genome sequencing.

The Indian variant is under observation by the WHO.

Experts say it is too early to say whether the Indian variant, B.1.617, is responsible for the rapid increase in infections there.

The RKI says there is currently still a lack of knowledge on how dangerous the variant is.

Experts are particularly concerned with the question of whether variants cause increased transmission from one person to another, and if vaccines are effective against them. 

What are the latest numbers in Germany?

On Thursday the RKI logged 24,736 cases within the last 24 hours and 264 deaths. On Thursday a week ago, Germany recorded 29,518 new infections and 259 new deaths within a day.

The number of cases per 100,000 people in seven days fell to 154.9 on Thursday, which could be the sign of a downward trend. The day before, the RKI said the 7-day incidence was 160.6; a week ago it was 161.1.

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COVID-19

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab

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