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Nearly 200 people ordered to quarantine in German city over fears of Covid Indian variant outbreak

Since Sunday, around 200 people have been in quarantine in two high-rise buildings in Velbert, North Rhine-Westphalia due to concerns over a possible outbreak connected to the Indian Covid variant.

Nearly 200 people ordered to quarantine in German city over fears of Covid Indian variant outbreak
Tape seals off the quarantined buildings in Verbert on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Reichwein

The variant has so far officially been detected in one resident – but tents are ongoing to analyse other positive results.

A total of 189 people from the buildings have been told to go into self-isolation, confirmed Mettmann district head Marcus Kowalczyk to DPA.

Food and other supplies are being provided for them by the Red Cross and other agencies.

All residents of the two high-rise houses have been tested for Covid-19.

Velbert, which has a population of around 85,000, lies north of Wuppertal, and about 20km north east of Düsseldorf.

In total, there have so far been 19 positive results back connected to four families in the two buildings. However, the Indian variant, which is considered particularly contagious, has been detected in only one case so far.

The results of the series of tests conducted on Sunday and Monday are expected later on Tuesday, according to Kowalczyk.

“However, it will take about seven days for the findings that are positive to then be tested for the Indian variant,” he said, adding that he could not yet say how long the residents would need to stay isolated.

A ‘worrying’ variant

The Covid-19 mutant B.1.617, newly classified as a cause for concern, has so far been detected in only a few samples in Germany, “but its proportion has been steadily increasing in recent weeks,” according to an Robert Koch Institute (RKI) report published last week. 

READ ALSO: Indian virus variant ‘steadily increasing’ in Germany

So far, its share in the samples tested is less than two percent, according to the RKI.

The variant was first found in India, which is currently grappling with hundreds of thousands of new cases per day. In response Germany has put tight travel rules between the countries in place in late April.

The variant has been classified as “worrying” by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

According to experts, it could be up to 50 percent more contagious than the British variant, which is still detected in the majority of cases in Germany.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The current travel rules between India and Germany

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COVID-19

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.

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