Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week

The proportion of new cases linked to the supercontagious Delta variant in Germany has almost doubled in a week, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Share of Delta variant Covid cases in Germany almost doubles in a week
A rapid test centre in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Weissbrod

Despite an encouraging downward trend of Covid rates in Germany, the proportion of the Delta variant – B.1.617.2 – among cases is growing significantly.

A whole-genome sequencing analysis shows the Delta variant, which was first identified in India, now accounts for 15 percent of new infections, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) agency for disease control.

“The proportion of variant B.1.617.2 (Delta) continues to increase and the proportion of this VOC (variant of concern) doubled within one week,” the RKI said in its report released Wednesday night. 

The table below from the RKI shows the share of virus variants of concern in Germany in recent weeks, with Alpha – which was first detected in the UK – dominating but going down as the Delta share rises.

The latest figures refer to the week of June 7th to 13th. The proportion for the week before was retroactively corrected from the original figure of about six percent to eight percent due to subsequent reports.

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

The data shows that the share of Delta in German cases has almost doubled for the third week in a row, going from 4 to 8 percent and now 15 percent.

“The current distribution of the variants in Germany shows that it can be expected that the VOC B.1.617.2 can be expected to prevail over the other variants,” the RKI said.

Experts have been fearing this rate of growth, which has also been observed in other countries. In the weeks before the rise, the proportion of Delta in Germany had remained at a constant low level, according to the RKI. 

On Thursday Germany recorded 1,008 cases within 24 hours and 93 deaths. The 7-day incidence stands at just 6.6 cases per 100,000 people. 

German health expert Karl Lauterbach said on Twitter it was “very clear that in autumn we will have another problem that will affect all those who have not been vaccinated and our children”.

In the UK, Delta accounts for almost 90 percent of all new infections, and the curve of case numbers is rising significantly. 

Yet about 60 percent of people there are already fully vaccinated, while 82.5 percent have had at least one initial dose.

Berlin virologist Christian Drosten tweeted on Wednesday: “Even with high vaccination rates, there is still an incidence increase. Certainly with reduced disease severity, but it does not help unvaccinated people. The Delta rate will also rise in Germany.”

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel called for European countries to quarantine all arrivals from the UK like is the case in Germany. 

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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.