Germany to ‘focus more on Covid hospital admissions’ when deciding measures

Up until now, Germany has placed a huge emphasis on Covid infection rates when deciding on which measures are needed to control the virus situation.

Germany to 'focus more on Covid hospital admissions' when deciding measures
People outside an exhibition called 'The Corona thing', which is documenting the pandemic, in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

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. 

READ ALSO: German politicians call for eased Covid restrictions amid rising infection rates

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. 

READ ALSO: Delta variant of Covid-19 becomes dominant in Germany – what does it mean?

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.  

READ ALSO: Car parks, job centres and festivals: How Germany is trying to get Covid jabs to everyone

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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.