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Who’s affected most by Germany’s fourth Covid wave?

Who's affected most by Germany's fourth Covid wave?
A sign in Munich showing entry is only for people who've been vaccinated, tested or have recovered from Covid recently. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe
The number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care wards in Germany is going up, along with the number of infections. Which parts of the population are most affected by the fourth wave?

On Friday Germany reported 12,029 Covid infections in 24 hours and 14 deaths. The 7-day incidence rose to 70.3 Covid infections per 100,000 people – a huge increase from the low of around five cases per 100,000 people in early July. One week ago the 7-day incidence stood at 48.8.

However, this week the German government changed its Covid strategy, with a move away from the focus on the number of infections. Politicians are instead putting the spotlight on how hospitals are coping as a way of deciding how to handle the crisis. 

Here’s a look at at the situation across Germany.

What do we know about the fourth wave?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said the Covid fourth wave is continuing to “gain momentum”.

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“The 7-day incidence has been increasing significantly since the beginning of July 2021, rising much earlier and faster than last year, when comparable incidences were not reached until October,” said the RKI in its latest weekly report.

This wave, which is dominated by the more transmissible Delta variant, is being fuelled mainly by infections among young adults, experts said.

The 7-day incidence for infections among 15 to 34-year-olds was 115 per 100,000 people on Thursday. Infections are also increasing in the middle-age groups. 

However, there are stark regional differences. Numbers varied on Thursday between 122 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in North Rhine-Westphalia and 15.5 in Saxony-Anhalt.

EXPLAINED: These are Germany’s Covid hotspots

Elderly people, who have the highest risk of complications connected to Covid-19, are mostly vaccinated and therefore protected. In the group aged 60 and older, incidences within a week have not risen above 17 cases per 100,000 people nationwide. This shows vaccinations are doing their bit to keep people out of hospitals. 

What’s happening in German hospitals?

Although the number of Covid patients in hospitals is still at a low level, the RKI said it is “visibly increasing”, especially among those aged 35 to 59.

The latest report from the intensive care register (DIVI) shows 869 Covid patients are in ICU wards in hospitals across Germany, with 428 of them receiving ventilation treatment. 

A week ago the numbers stood at 621 Covid patients, with 293 people receiving ventilation. On August 5th, DIVI reported 387 Covid-19 patients in ICU wards across Germany, with 206 of those receiving ventilation treatment.

In the RKI’s latest daily report, it notes the number of Covid hospitalisations stands at 1.56 per 100,000 people. Just over a week ago, this incidence was 1.19.

According to the analysis, increased infections among younger people is also noticeable when looking at hospital data. While at the beginning of the year hospital patients with Covid-19 were on average 77-years-old, since mid-August the average age has been around 46 to 48.

Experts said the vast majority of Covid patients in hospitals are not vaccinated. Vaccinated people being admitted to hospital with Covid is very rare, the report says.

During peaks of the pandemic – such as October last year and January this year – more than 5,000 Covid patients were hospitalised in Germany.  

How many people are vaccinated?

The number of people getting their shots in Germany has almost come to a standstill. The latest data shows nearly 64.8 percent of the population has received at least one jab, and nearly 60 percent have been fully vaccinated. A week earlier, those rates were about 64.8 percent for first-time jabs and 58 percent of people had been fully jabbed. 

Welt data journalist Olaf Gersemann said the 7-day average of people getting Covid jabs in Germany dropped to 249,803 – the lowest value since March 25th.

Germany this week formalised its Covid health pass ‘3G’ system. It means states can only allow people who’ve been vaccinated, recovered from Covid or tested negatively into many indoor public spaces. One of the main aims was to increase the number of vaccinations – however this doesn’t appear to have had any impact so far. 

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What else should we know?

The positive rate among about 680,500 Covid PCR tests in the 33rd calendar week from mid-August increased significantly. At nearly 8 percent (7.88), it was about five times higher than a month ago (1.63 percent). This is a signal of the fourth wave’s momentum.

Travel is also having an impact. Although the majority of infections are happening in Germany, around a quarter of new infections were probably contracted while on vacation abroad, experts said. At the moment Turkey is the country most frequently mentioned as where Covid infections have originated after travel to Germany. 

The RKI continues to recommend that people eligible for the Covid vaccine get it as soon as possible. 

The health experts also urge people to stick to Covid rules like keeping distance, wearing masks and ventilating indoor rooms regardless of vaccination status to try and control the spread of the virus. 


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