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Germany’s Covid case rate falls below key threshold of 50 for first time since October

For the first time since October 2020, the 7-day incidence nationwide is below 50 Covid-19 infections per 100,000 people.

Germany's Covid case rate falls below key threshold of 50 for first time since October
People walking in the Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin on May 24th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

The number of coronavirus infections per 100,000 people within a period of seven days fell to 46.8 on Wednesday May 26th, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) disease control agency shows. 

On Tuesday the 7-day incidence nationwide in Germany was 58.4 and a week ago it was 72.8. The incidence rate has been steadily dropping across the country since around the end of April.

In mid-February, the 7-day incidence – which German politicians have been using as the main factor to decide on easing Covid restrictions – had come down to just over 50 at the end of the second wave.

But then came the third wave, pushing numbers significantly up again through the rest of February, March and part of April. 

The last time the incidence rate was below the 50 threshold for the whole of Germany was back in autumn: An incidence of 48.6 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents was registered on October 20th 2020, reported German daily Welt on Wednesday.

IN PICTURES: How Germany is reopening after six months of Covid shutdown

Several districts and cities – including Berlin – are also logging incidence rates below 50 infections per 100,000 people.

When there is a stable Covid rate below 50, more reopening of public life and easing of rules can happen.

Areas across Germany have started reopening facilities like outdoor terraces in bars, cafes and restaurants, outdoor pools, museums and galleries, with restrictions like regular rapid testing.

What is the coronavirus situation in general?

On Wednesday, Germany reported 2,626 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours. For comparison: a week ago, 11,040 infections were logged.

However, we should be careful when looking at the current data because due to the holiday weekend – and some previous public holidays in the last weeks – the numbers could be slightly skewed as fewer people get tested and there can be delays in reporting results of the tests carried out.

According to the RKI, 270 deaths were recorded in Germany within 24 hours. A week ago, there were 284 deaths within a day.

The Our World in Data chart below gives an idea of confirmed Covid-19 cases (rolling 7-day average) in Germany, France and the UK.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the RKI has logged a total of 3,656,177 proven infections with Sars-CoV-2. The actual total number, however, is probably much higher, as many infections are not detected.

The number of people who are estimated to have recovered from Covid in Germany is around 3,438,800. The number of people who have died from or with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic in Germany stands at 87,726.

READ ALSO: ‘We’re on the right track’: What’s the current Covid situation around Germany?

What about the R number?

The nationwide seven-day reproductive number (R number) was 0.78 (previous day: 0.84), according to the RKI situation report from Tuesday evening. This means that 100 infected people on average go on to infect 78 other people.

The R-value represents the infection incidence eight to 16 days ago. If the R-value is below 1 for a longer period of time, the number of infections is decreasing; if it is continuously above 1, the number of cases is increasing.

What’s the status with the inoculation campaign?

In Germany more than 40 percent of the population has received at least one shot against Covid-19, while more than 14 percent of people have been fully vaccinated.

By next Sunday, 170 million people throughout Europe will have received at least one jab. That would be 46 percent of the adult population in the EU, said Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to EU sources.

By May 30th, about 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccine will have been delivered in the EU and 245 million doses of it administered.

According to the report, deliveries in the second quarter from April to June exceeded original expectations: 413 million vaccine doses from the manufacturers BioNtech/Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are expected to arrive in the EU.

According to the current forecast, there will be 529 million doses delivered in the third quarter from July to the end of September, and another 452 million in the fourth quarter.

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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