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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‘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.


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