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‘Vaccinate quickly’: German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases

Covid-19 cases have been falling in Germany - but the Delta variant of the virus is on the rise. Experts are hammering home the importance of getting the jab.

'Vaccinate quickly': German states seeing surge in Delta variant Covid cases
A 14-year-old in Weimar receiving the first vaccine dose in June. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

Some German states are reporting that the share of the variant in new infections has increased noticeably. New figures on the nationwide situation from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) are expected soon.

It is thought that the super contagious variant, initially discovered in India, has continued to spread in many parts of Germany – although it has so far remained at a low level overall.

In light of the development, high-profile virologist Christian Drosten advocates raising awareness of the importance of vaccination.

“That’s really what we need to do now,” the expert from Berlin’s Charité hospital said on the Coronavirus Update podcast (NDR-Info).

He did not specify whether Germany could experience a rise in cases in summer, like has been seen in the UK.

In any case, the incidence rate will surge again in autumn, Drosten said, stressing the importance of vaccination among parents of school children.

“We just have to vaccinate quickly,” Drosten said. If this is not enough it will again be necessary to counteract with contact restrictions, he added. “But there are also good reasons to think that this will not be necessary in Germany.”

On Wednesday, the nationwide incidence stood at 7.2 infections per 100,000 residents in seven days (previous day: 8.0; previous week: 13.2). Germany reported 1,016 new infections within a day (previous week: 1,455) and 51 deaths.

More than 51 percent of the German population has received at least one vaccine dose, and around 31.6 percent are fully jabbed. 

READ ALSO: Delta variant – how worried should Germany be about a new wave of cases? 

States reporting rise in Delta

On Tuesday, some German states reported that the proportion of the variant had surged in their states. In Hesse, it already accounts for more than one-fifth of new infections, according to health minister Kai Klose (Greens). “We do have clear indications that Delta is already dominating over 20 percent of cases in Hesse as well,” he said.

In Bavaria, the number of confirmed infections with the Delta variant has almost doubled in the course of a week – from 132 to 229 cases, according to state chancellery head Florian Herrmann (CSU).

In some laboratories, the proportion is now almost a quarter.

READ ALSO: Nearly a quarter of new Covid infections in Munich area ’caused by Delta variant’

In Baden-Württemberg it is also spreading rapidly – but at a low level. According to the state health office on Monday, the number of Delta variant cases logged variant (up until June 21st) is around 368.

There have also been reports of outbreaks throughout the country, including at a housing block in Dresden that saw residents forced to quarantine, as well as in schools and nurseries. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) recently said it was not a question of if, but when Delta would determine the incidence of infection in Germany.

The proportion of the Delta variant in a random sample had last been just over six percent nationwide (week of May 31st to June 6th), according to RKI data.

This was an increase compared to the previous weeks, but the trend in the absolute number of detected cases is downward. The RKI’s new viral variant report is expected Wednesday evening. Delta is already the dominant variant in the UK, accounting for almost all new cases.

Target vaccination sceptics

The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, called for a stronger approach to “vaccination sceptics and vaccination deniers”.

READ ALSO: German health experts warn against travel to Delta variant areas

“If we do not also convince part of this group of the sense of vaccination, we will not achieve herd immunity,” Montgomery told the Editorial Network Germany. Referring to the Delta variant, he explained, “Those who don’t get vaccinated will sooner or later become infected with the coronavirus.”

Drosten said his lab data shows initial indications that people infected with Delta have an even higher viral load than those infected with the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7) – first detected in the UK.

Drosten said research suggests the Delta variant causes slightly more severe courses of illness. However, he said, the protection against a severe course of the disease for fully vaccinated individuals is equivalent compared with the Alpha variant, which is still dominant in Germany.

However, protection with only one vaccine dose is considered weaker against Delta than against earlier forms of the virus.

Vocabulary

Spread – ausgebreitet

Contagious – ansteckend

Vaccination sceptics – (die) Impfskeptiker

Vaccination deniers (die) Impfleugner

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

  1. There are not enough doses to innoculate people willing to be vaccinated. That should be the focus right now. How are you going to convince an anti-vaxer to be vaccinated if you cannot even offer it?

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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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