Germany’s infection rate rises slightly as new Covid variant reaches Europe

The 7-day incidence of Covid-19 infections went up slightly in Germany on Wednesday. Health experts are also keeping a close eye on the 'Lambda' variant, which was first discovered in South America and is now present in Europe.

Germany's infection rate rises slightly as new Covid variant reaches Europe
Guests sit at packed tables at a bar in Cantabria, Spain, where the Lambda variant has been spreading in recent days. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/EUROPA PRESS | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce

On Wednesday morning, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 985 new infections in a single day in Germany – compared to 808 the previous week.

The nationwide 7-day incidence also crept up slightly to 5.1 per 100,000 people, compared to 4.9 on Tuesday. The previous week, the 7-day incidence stood at 5.2 per 100,000 residents. 

This is the second time the downward trend in Covid infections has reversed slightly this week.

On Sunday, the incidence sneaked up overnight from 4.9 to 5.0, causing experts to question whether the trend reversal was a mere blip, or a sign that infections were once again set to rise in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s coronavirus infections rise for first time in four weeks

On Monday and Tuesday, the numbers sunk back to previous levels, but then rose once again on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, for the first time since April, the reproduction number (R number), which shows the speed that Covid infections are spreading, is above the threshold of 1.

The RKI said the 7-day R number on Wednesday was 1.01 (previous day: 0.93). This means that 100 people with Covid go on to infect on average 101 others.

The R number represents the infection incidence 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a longer period of time, the incidence of infection is decreasing; if it is continuously above 1, the number of cases is going up.

Experts will be watching closely to see if there is a stagnating or upward trend over the coming days and weeks. There are concerns that the Delta variant will push up the number of cases, as has been seen in other countries including the UK and Israel.

The number of deaths, however, has dropped slightly compared to the previous week. On Wednesday, 48 deaths were recorded across Germany within 24 hours, while a week ago this figure was 56.

The ‘Lambda’ variant reaches Europe’s shores 

As states across Germany continue to relax restrictions, and businesses welcome workers back to offices, there is further concerning news for health specialists: the Lambda Covid variant, which was first discovered in Peru, has found its way to Europe.

According to Spanish media sources, the northern region of Cantabria has recorded 80 confirmed cases of the variant, which has also been termed the ‘Anden variant’. 

In addition, a number of Lambda infections have also been confirmed in the UK in recent days. 

Public Health England, the country’s public health authority, said it believed Lambda could have  “a potential increased transmissibility or possible increased resistance to neutralizing antibodies”.

This means it could spread faster and also be more dangerous than Delta – though this is has not yet been confirmed by studies.

New ‘virus variant’ areas?

At the time of its discovery in Peru in August 2020, Lambda accounted for 0.5 percent of all Covid cases in the country. At present, this figure is thought to have shot up to 82 percent. 

The variant has also spread to 29 other countries so far – most of them in South America. 

From July 7th, the United Kingdom – where the Delta variant is prevalent – has been scrubbed from the RKI’s ‘virus variant’ list in light of the variant’s spread in Germany. 


If the Lambda variant continues to spread in that region, the UK could find itself back on the virus variant list in the coming weeks. 

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, the RKI has registered 3,732,549 detected infections with Sars-CoV-2 in Germany.

The actual total number is likely to be significantly higher, as many infections go undetected.

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Germany’s weekly Covid infection rate rises above 500

Germany recorded a weekly Covid incidence of more than 500 per 100,000 people on Monday as health experts warn that the fifth wave of the pandemic has only just begun.

Bar in Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, which has the highest incidence in the country.
People sit outside bars in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where incidences are currently the highest in the country. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

On Monday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 528, up from 515 the day before and 376 a week ago. 

Infections have been rising rapidly as the highly transmissible Omicron variant tightens its hold in Germany. Monday marked the fourth day in a row in which the country posted record incidences.

Since the first incidence of the variant was discovered in the country around seven weeks ago, Omicron has swiftly taken over as the dominant variant in Germany.

It currently accounts for around 73 percent of Covid infections and is expected to almost entirely replace the Delta variant this week. 

Though Omicron generally causes a less severe illness than Delta, experts are concerned that deaths and hospitalisations could remain high due to the unprecedented number of cases Germany could see.

Unlike Delta, Omicron has a large number of mutations that allow it to evade previously built up immunity through vaccinations and illness. 

The World Health Organisation has warned that half of all Europeans could be infected with the virus by spring. 

“After the temporary decline in case numbers, severe disease courses and deaths towards the end of 2021 in the fourth wave, the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has begun in Germany with the dominant circulation of the omicron variant,” the Robert Koch Institute wrote in its weekly report on Thursday.  

Since the first Omicron case was discovered in Germany, there have been 191,422 suspected or proven cases of the variant.

As Welt data journalist Olaf Gersemann pointed out in Twitter, the number of Omicron cases has increased sixfold within a fortnight. 

Increase in hospitalisations

Before this weekend, Germany had hit its previous peak of infections back in November, when the country posted a 7-day incidence of 485 per 100,000 people at during the peak of the fourth wave.

Since then, Covid measures such contact restrictions and blanket 2G (entry only for the vaccinated and recovered) or 2G-plus (vaccinated or recovered with a negative test) have been relatively effective at turning the tide. 


For the past few weeks however, infections have been on the up once again as the Omicron fifth wave begins.

The incidence of hospitalisations in the country appears to also be on the rise again after a few weeks of decline. On Friday, the 7-day incidence of hospitalisations stood at 3.24 per 100,000 people, up from 3.13 the day before.

Over the weekend, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned that Omicron could place additional pressure on the general hospital wards as fewer people end up in intensive care. 

“Depending on how things develop, we may face shortages not only in the intensive care units, but also in the normal wards. There is a threat of entire departments being closed,” he said.

“Rapid spread of the virus would mean hundreds of thousands will become seriously ill and we will have to mourn many thousands of deaths again.” 

Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at a weekly press conference on Friday, January 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Northern states post record incidences

Since the start of the Omicron wave, northern Germany has been disproportionately affected by the virus.

As of Monday, the city-state of Bremen had the highest incidence in the country, with 1389 new cases per 100,000 people recorded in a week.

This was followed by Berlin, which currently has a 7-day incidence of 948, and Hamburg, which recorded a 7-day incidence of 806. The district with the highest incidence in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, which posted a weekly incidence of 1597 on Monday. 

In contrast to the fourth wave, the lowest Covid incidences were recorded in the eastern states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. 

On Monday, Thuringia had a weekly incidence of 198 per 100,000 people, while Saxony’s incidence was 249 and Saxony-Anhalt’s was 280.

Somewhat inexplicably, the incidence has been declining in Thuringia in recent weeks, though there is speculation that this could be to do with the fact that Omicron has not yet spread in the state.

Nine of the sixteen German states have incidences of more than 500 per 100,000 people.