But according to German media reports, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) agency for disease control wants to move away from focusing so much on the number of infections when assessing the pandemic situation – and instead look in more detail at hospitals.
It comes as Covid-19 infections in Germany continue to rise, although numbers remain at a low level. On Monday, 324 Covid infections were reported within 24 hours – an increase of 53 percent compared to the previous week. Two people were reported to have died within the same time frame.
The 7-day incidence stood at 6.4 Covid cases per 100,000 people – the highest rate since June 24th. German states have been using the incidence rate to determine how far to relax restrictions, or if tougher rules are needed.
But the RKI says the number of people being admitted to hospital should now be an additional leading factor when looking at the situation due to the high vaccination coverage, reported German daily Bild on Monday.
Citing an official RKI paper, the reports states that “several indicators would still be necessary for evaluation, but the weighting of the indicators among each other would change”. The Institute justifies the addition of hospitalisation as a leading factor with the “consequences of increasing basic immunity”.
According to the Bild report, the RKI expects a “decrease in the proportion of severe cases” and therefore calls for a “stronger focus on the consequences of infection”, including severe illnesses with hospitalisation, deaths and long-term consequences.
The RKI sums up that “extensive non-pharmacological interventions are difficult to justify for everyone (except in the case of imminent systematic overload)”. The Institute therefore is suggesting that a tightening of Covid measures is no longer justifiable in the case of high vaccination rates.
On Monday the Health Ministry said that the so-called 7-day incidence would, however, continue to be an important factor.
“The incidence has never been the only parameter to assess the pandemic situation,” a spokesperson said. “And it is and remains an important parameter.”
The latest figures show 58.2 percent of the population has had at least one vaccine dose, and 42.1 percent are fully vaccinated.
Some politicians and health experts have been urging German states to stop putting so much emphasis on incidence rates. The President of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, told Bild: “If in a fourth Corona wave there are many positive findings but no sick people, one can be very relaxed about the situation.”
However, the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant is still a major concern, particularly for unvaccinated people.
Last week the RKI said the Delta variant, which was first detected in India, has become the dominant Covid strain in Germany. It is expected to push the number of cases up further.
In the UK cases have skyrocketed due to the Delta variant – despite the very high vaccination coverage for the population. The number of hospitalisations has also increased though not at the level previously seen in earlier waves.
German hospitals called to submit more information on Covid patients
Hospitals in Germany will have to report more precise data on Covid patients, including their age, type of treatment and vaccination status in future, it emerged at the weekend.
Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) said: “In future, all Covid patients treated in hospital, their age, the type of treatment and their vaccination status must be reported.”
Better data on the occupancy of intensive care wards is also needed, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry added.
The Ministry is putting a new regulation on this, which is to come into force soon. It needs to be possible to estimate in a timely manner “how high the burden on the health system will be and how well the vaccinations work”, Spahn wrote on Twitter.
Span also expressed confidence that the ongoing vaccination campaign will have a positive effect.
“Since the risk groups are vaccinated, a high incidence does not automatically mean an equally high burden in intensive care beds,” he said.
The incidence is increasingly losing its significance, the Minister continued. “We now need even more detailed information about the situation in the hospitals.”
The Health Ministry spokesman could not yet say when exactly the new rules will apply.