Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

The northermost German state of Schleswig-Holstein has managed to get the 7-day incidence under the threshold of 50 Covid infections per 100,000 residents.

Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide
The sun setting over the North Sea on the island of Pellworm, Schleswig-Holstein on May 10th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

There’s good news all round: coronavirus cases have been falling in Germany. But one state is significantly outperforming the rest – and that’s Schleswig-Holstein, a favourite tourist destination for Germans.

On Wednesday May 12th, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that the number of reported Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days had dropped to 49 in Schleswig-Holstein – that’s under the much-coveted threshold of 50.

Once states manage to achieve a stable incidence below 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, further reopening steps can take place.

READ ALSO: When (and how) will German states relax Covid restrictions?

So far, Schleswig-Holstein has opened four regions for tourists as part of a project to assess how tourism can operate safely. These areas – which include North Friesland, Büsum and the Bay of Lübeck – allow vaccinated people, those who have recovered from Covid-19 and people who test negative for coronavirus to take a holiday there.

Holidaymakers (who are not in the immune groups) need a negative coronavirus test upon arrival and have to be re-tested every 48 hours. During the project, restaurants are also allowed to open and certain leisure activities, such as hikes and city tours, are also possible.

Facilities for sports and culture, outdoor dining, as well as daycare centres and schools have long been open in Germany’s northernmost state while the 7-day incidence has been below 100.

The state, which is home to cities including Flensburg, Kiel and Lübeck, lies next to neighbouring Denmark, which has also seen encouraging coronavirus figures in recent weeks and is reopening public life.

ANALYSIS: Why are Germany’s Covid cases coming down so sharply?

What’s the situation in other states?

In eight of the 16 federal states, the incidence has now fallen below 100, signalling a very positive trend. In Berlin, for example, a 7-day incidence of 86 Covid infections per 100,000 residents was reported by the RKI on Wednesday.

Emergency brake measures, including curfews and tougher contact rules, came into force in districts and cities that had more than 100 infections per 100,000 residents within a 7-day period in April. That included most of Germany.

So when states manage to reach a stable incidence under 100, they can begin reopening with a focus on allowing outdoor activities. In this phase, restrictions such as widespread rapid coronavirus testing, also remain in force.

On Tuesday, several federal states launched plans to relax trade, tourism and outdoor dining. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will open schools again from next week, the hospitality sector will follow on May 23rd. From June 14th, vacations in hotels and holiday apartments will also be allowed for travellers from other federal states, with restrictions. 

READ ALSO: How do you prove you’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19?

Nationwide, the RKI reported 14,909 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours and 268 deaths on Wednesday. That is 3,125 fewer positive tests than on Wednesday a week ago when 18,034 new infections were reported.

The 7-day incidence for Germany as a whole has fallen significantly to 107.8 (previous day 115.4).

So far, more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases have been registered in Germany since the start of the pandemic, and 85,380 deaths.

However, regional differences are still huge. With an incidence of 168.3, the eastern region of Thuringia is the state struggling with the highest number of cases. 

The RKI now lists 26 districts that have managed to achieve an incidence below 50. In contrast, 19 districts continue to show a 7-day incidence above 200 cases per 100,000 people.

The city of Schweinfurt in Bavaria has the highest number of cases with 286.4 Covid infections per 100,000 residents in seven days.

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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