‘Summer will be good’: Has Germany broken the Covid third wave?

The number of reported Covid-19 cases in Germany is continuing to decline, signalling that the country has managed to break the third wave - but ICU wards are still under pressure.

'Summer will be good': Has Germany broken the Covid third wave?
People walking among cherry blossom trees in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd von Jutrczenka

So things are looking good. Is this true?

There have been encouraging signs in the coronavirus situation in Germany. The number of new infections has been falling for around a week.

At the weekend SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach predicted that the weekly number of cases would drop significantly by the end of May.

“The summer will be good,” he said in an interview with broadcaster Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR). However, he also called for people to remain cautious.

Lauterbach said Germany has stopped the third wave “but hasn’t defeated it yet”.

“I assume that the number of cases will drop significantly from mid/end of May,” he said. “Then we can say we have defeated the third wave.”

He said Germany had a good combination of measures in place.

“With the emergency brake, we have prevented reopening too early; by testing in schools in combination with alternating lessons (online and in-person), we have a way of preventing the worst chains of infection from breaking out there. ”

Lauterbach added that vaccinations were helping the situation but there was still a long way to go on that front.

But he added: “We are now on the last lap on the final straight.”

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

How many people are getting Covid-19 at the moment?

On Sunday May 2nd the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 16,290 new cases, which was significantly lower than a week earlier when there were 19,000 cases.

On Monday May 3rd the RKI reported 9,160 new infections and 84 deaths. A week ago, there were 11,907 daily coronavirus infections and 60 deaths.

The number of cases is usually lower on Mondays due to fewer tests being carried out at the weekend.

The weekly average of new cases also fell by around 1.8 percent compared to the previous week. The 7-day average of active cases fell by 13 percent compared to the previous week.

Summing up the latest findings, high profile German journalist Olaf Gersemann said in a tweet: “The third wave is not over but it is apparently broken.”

According to the RKI, the number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 residents was 146.9 nationwide on Monday morning. The day before, the RKI said this incidence was 146.5. On Monday a week ago, however, the incidence was significantly higher, at 169.3.

Germany is aiming to get this incidence under 50 which would see politicians allow more facilities to open up.

There’s good news on the infection dynamics too: the nationwide 7-day reproductive number was 0.92 according to the RKI situation report on Sunday. This means that 100 infected people go on to infect 92 more people on average.

The R number represents the occurrence of the infection eight to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a longer period of time, the infection process subsides; if it is consistently higher, the number of cases increases.

What’s the situation in hospitals?

Currently around 5,022 people are still in intensive care in Germany after contracting Covid-19, with 2,950 people receiving ventilation.

This is still a very high figure and medical workers say they are facing major pressure, as younger age groups become ill.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel. The president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) believes the recent fall in the number of new infections will soon also be reflected in intensive care units.

“In the intensive care units we will be able to see this declining infection rate in a week, we are convinced of that,” Gernot Marx told the Rheinische Post on Monday.

In his opinion, the positive development is directly related to the ’emergency brake’ tougher measures being brought in by the federal government. They include curfews, stronger contact rules and school closures in areas with high Covid rates.

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

Marx also said the clear progress made in vaccinations in Germany is having an impact. 

But staff in ICU are still working incredibly hard.

“All people who work on the wards continue to be challenged to the maximum,” said Marx.

When will restaurants, gyms, bars – and everything else – open again?

This we don’t know. But if infections continue to go down, public life will reopen. And there is pressure on politicians.

In view of the declining numbers, the Association of Cities and Municipalities has demanded a long-term opening plan from the federal government.

Germany has had restrictions in place since November 2020 – that’s six months – and the rules have got tougher in many places in recent weeks due to increasing Covid cases.

The association’s chief Gerd Landsberg said long-term planning had been neglected by politicians.

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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.