‘No all clear’: What Germany’s falling Covid numbers say about the third wave

For the fourth day in a row, the Covid-19 infection rate has dropped in Germany - but experts disagree about whether the country has truly broken the back of the pandemic.

'No all clear': What Germany's falling Covid numbers say about the third wave
Health Minister Jens Spahn holds a press conference on the latest Covid-19 statistics on April 29th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

On Friday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that the number of new daily Covid-19 cases had dropped in Germany for the fourth day in a row, with thousands fewer new cases than in mid-April.  

The number of daily infections has gone down by 3,000 compared to the previous week and now stands at 24,329, suggesting that vaccination efforts and new nationwide restrictions could be having the desired effect.

Authorities are still deeply concerned about high number of Covid-19 deaths, which has remained relatively constant despite the drop in infections. In the latest figures, 306 new deaths were registered, bringing the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic up to 82,850.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, there are also large differences in infection rates across regions.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Where are Covid-19 cases going up (and down) in Germany?

The majority of new reported cases came from North Rhine-Westphalia – the most populated state in Germany – where 5,629 new infections were recorded in a single day. This was followed by the southern states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, which recorded 4,294 and 3,478 new daily cases respectively.

In Berlin – Germany’s largest and most populous city – new infections stood at 742 on Friday, down from 796 on Tuesday. Meanwhile in Hamburg, there were 401, 387 in Munich and 293 in Frankfurt. 

Experts do say, however, it is likely that many more coronavirus cases go undetected.

The chart below by Our World in Data shows the daily new confirmed Covid cases in Germany on a rolling 7-day average.

‘Numbers need to fall, not just stagnate’

So what does this all mean? According to the latest RKI figures, the national 7-day incidence of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 inhabitants has dropped noticeably since the start of the week. On Monday, the 7-day incidence stood at 169.3, while on Friday morning, this number had sunk to 153.4. 

Nevertheless, both politicians and disease experts have been reluctant to sound any notes of celebration just yet.

RKI chief Lothar Wieler and Health Minister Jens Spahn. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

On Thursday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn appeared in a press conference alongside Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute, to warn that – despite the recent drop – Covid-19 infections rates were still at a critical level.

“There’s hope, but no all clear,” he told reporters. “The numbers don’t just have to stagnate – they have to fall.”

With worldwide infection rates jumping by 24 percent in a single week, Wieler said the pandemic was clearly “far from over.” 

However, with infections rates moving in the right direction, he praised the efforts of individuals in sticking to the latest Covid-19 measures – which include stricter contact rules and curfews in some places – and urged people to remain vigilant over the coming months.

“Let us continue to show solidarity with one another in order to break the third wave – this way we can prevent the un-vaccinated from getting infected at the last minute,” he said.

Vaccination picks up pace

The news of the drop in Covid-19 comes as the previously faltering vaccination rollout in Germany has started to gain momentum. 

With doctors’ surgeries carrying out vaccinations since the start of April and the ironing out of vaccine supply issues, daily vaccinations in Germany reached record levels this week. 

Photo: picture alliance/dpa/XinHua | Cristian Cristel

On Wednesday, almost 1.1 million doses of vaccine were administered to people in Germany, smashing Europe-wide records for the highest number of vaccinations carried out in a day.

With elderly people first in the queue to receive their first dose of the vaccine, the supercharging of the inoculation campaign has started to be reflected in hospital and infection figures across Germany.

READ MORE: Vaccine effect – Covid-19 hospital admission rate falls in Germany 

Recent figures from the RKI suggest that hospital admissions for Covid-19 patients have remained relatively steady at around eight percent over the past few months, and have now dropped to four percent.

This seems in large part due the number of over-80s that have now been vaccinated, leading to a major drop in the number of Covid-19 infections in this age bracket. On Thursday, for example, the proportion of the 80 plus age group in new Covid cases was just 2.5 percent.

Past the peak of the third wave?

Though numbers are moving in the right direction, neither vaccinations or emergency brake measures are likely to be a silver bullet, say experts.

During a Covid-19 pandemic advisory committee hearing in the Bundestag, mobility researcher Kai Nagal was hesitant to celebrate the new figures: “I no longer expect an increase, but also not a rapid decrease,” he said.

Physicist Viola Priesemann from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization was more optimistic, saying she expected 7-day incidences of less than 50 to follow, given the current speed of the vaccine rollout. 

Whatever happens, it’s clear that if the vaccination rollout can keep up the quick pace, it will ease the situation in Germany. We’ll make sure to keep you updated on all the latest developments on the infection and vaccine situation.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now