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Fact check: Will Germany’s Covid incidence really reach 800 by October?

Health Minister Jens Spahn said this week that if the current trend continues, Germany could see its 7-day Covid incidence rise to 800 infections per 100,000 people by October. Might this happen? Here's what a data expert had to say.

Fact check: Will Germany's Covid incidence really reach 800 by October?
Crowds pass through Frankfurt's shopping mile on Friday, July 23rd. Experts have warned of an explosion in infection rates if people don't remain cautious. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Spahn’s frightening prognosis was made on the basis of the current upward swing in infections. Having dipped all the way down to 4.9 Covid cases per 100,000 people within seven days on July 6th, the 7-day incidence of infections broke into double digits this week, and currently stands at 13.2

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Where are Covid cases rising in Germany – and what does it mean?

“If the incidence continues to double like this, every 12 days, then we will exceed 400 in September, 800 in October,” he told reporters on Wednesday during a press conference. “Do we want to let this happen?” 

That’s Spahn’s view – but what do the data experts say?

Statistician Katharina Schüller, who sits on the board of the German Statistical Society, told Germany’s Focus Online that the forecast could “theoretically” be correct. 

However, in her view, one essential factor is missing from Spahn’s prognosis: the fact that the number of vaccinated adults in Germany is rising on a daily basis

That means that two potential scenarios have to be considered based on the current trends, added Schüller.

The first doesn’t take into account the climbing vaccination rates and assumes that the current ‘R’ rate – the number of people infected by one person with Covid-19 – remains the same as it is currently.


The second, more likely scenario, is that the number of people vaccinated continues to rise steadily, bringing with it a reduction in the ‘R’ rate. “If the immunisation is taken into account, the reproductive rate [of Covid] decreases somewhat,” explains Schüller. 

What infection rates would we see in each scenario?

In the first scenario, where vaccinations aren’t considered, we could experience incidences of 50 Covid cases per 100,000 residents by the start of August, 100 by the middle of August, and 200 by the middle of September.

“According to these calculations, Spahn’s prediction would come true,” explained Schüller. The incidence would then be at least 800 in October, and possibly 951 on October 6th.

Marcel Fratzcher, Professor for Macroeconomics at Humboldt University, describes Spahn’s comments as “an important warning”.

In a second scenario, however, where vaccinations are talken into account, we could experience incidences of 50 Covid infections per 100,000 people by the middle of of August, 100 by the end of August, and 200 by the middle of September.

Could we still see an incidence of 800 – despite vaccinations? 

According to the statistics expert, it’s very unlikely – because a number of factors, from human intervention to weather events, could have an impact on the figures in a way that is hard to predict.

If Germany looks as if it is on a path towards super-high incidences in the triple-digits, will politicians and health experts risk reaching that point, along with the associated hospitalisations and loss of life? 

“The previous line has always been: no, we don’t want to,” Schüller told Focus Online. “But that is a political decision and not one that can be ‘calculated’. That’s why we will probably never reach the incidence of 800, because politics will very likely act beforehand.”

Though the current incidence is barely over 10, politicians such as Spahn are already urging caution among the population.

READ ALSO: ‘Prepare for autumn and winter’: Germany’s RKI warns of Covid spike

“It’s about wearing a mask indoors. Getting tested regularly. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, get vaccinated,” said Spahn. “Now, in these days of July, we’re already deciding how September, October and November will be.”

Health Minister Jens Spahn (left) has warned that people’s actions in July will affect the infection rates we see in August. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Reuters/Pool | Annegret Hilse

Could we see another lockdown situation?

That’s hard to say at the moment – but the signals from politicians suggests that public life could remain open a lot longer than it has previously. 

In previous months, the German government has seen a 7-day incidence of 50 Covid cases per 100,000 people or more as a critical threshold for introducing new measures and partial lockdowns.

However, if a large proportion of people are vaccinated and protected against severe courses of the virus and hospitalisations, the country can probably deal with much higher rates of infection before new restrictions are required.

If 75 percent of people get inoculated, a threshold of 200 Covid cases per 100,000 people in seven days would be more appropriate, since three quarters of people would theoretically be protected. 

As Spahn summarised at the press conference: “200 is the new 50.” 

Member comments

  1. IF there is Another lockdown for everyone including those vaccinated . Then what’s the point of getting Vaccinated. There should not be a lockdown for those who got Vaccinated. Whom are we trying to protect this time. Earlier it was to protect the old and the weak. Now it will be No vaccine sayers and Lazy people?

  2. We are in this position because of selfish, inconsiderate, dumb people only thinking about themselves

    Get vaccinated and wear your masks correctly.

    Again, today, I saw a 45-year-man walking around the supermarket with his nose exposed. He was asked by an employee to wear his mask correctly and cover his nose. He was shocked and offended when asked.

    He may as well have had his p.enis hanging out. Some dumbness and social inadequacy of care.

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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.