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VACCINES

‘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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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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