Experts split over whether Germany should extend Covid rules as case numbers stagnate

The number of new Covid-19 cases has stagnated in Germany in recent weeks. But opinion is split on when the government should end the measures to contain the virus.

SPD health spokesperson, Karl Lauterbach, has called for tighter restrictions on access to public spaces for non-vaccinated people in Germany.
SPD health spokesperson, Karl Lauterbach, has called for tighter restrictions on access to public spaces for non-vaccinated people in Germany. (Credit: Kay Nietfeld/DPA)

The latest numbers published by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Saturday show that the rate of Covid-19 infection remain stable with around 64 new cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day time period.

The 7-day incidence on Saturday stood at 64.4, exactly the same level as it had been a week ago. A month perviously the 7-day incidence was 83.5 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

According to the most recent data, 65 people were recorded as dying from the virus throughout Germany within the last 24 hour period. Some 94,000 people in the country have now died since the start of the pandemic after becoming infected.

The number of Covid patients admitted to hospitals per 100,000 population within seven days – the most important parameter taken into account in discussions on a possible tightening of restrictions – is currently 1.67. That’s about the same as the previous week’s figure but far below the rate of 15.5 seen in January.

‘Time for more 2G rules’

SPD health spokesman Karl Lauterbach has called for a new round of talks between federal and state governments to tighten some of the Covid rules.

“It would make sense for state leaders to meet with the Chancellor again soon,” Lauterbach told Funke Media Group on Saturday. “From new rules to vaccinations, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made.”

Lockdown measures last winter were agreed upon during regular meetings between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders.

Warning of a “severe winter” Lauterbach said that the 2G rule, which restricts access to certain public places like restaurants and cinemas, should be applied more “intensively”. 

But other influential voices have called for all restrictions to be lifted in the coming weeks.

Andreas Gassen, head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, said that enough people had now been vaccinated for the government to be able to safely end restrictions.

“We shouldn’t wait until early next year to lift restrictions that are no longer particularly necessary,” Gassen said in an interview with Die Welt newspaper.

The Robert Koch Institute last week revised its proportion for the number of adults who been fully vaccinated by five percent. The new figure suggested that 80 percent of the adult population had been vaccinated.

The correction led to criticism of the health authority, with opposition politicians suggesting that the numbers could have been kept low under pressure from the government to motivate more people to get vaccinated.

Gassen said that the new vaccination numbers were good news and meant that the government should “show more courage” in returning life to normal.

SEE ALSO: What does Germany’s higher vaccination rate mean for winter?

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German hospitals see Covid staff shortages and rising patient numbers

A wave of Covid infections in Germany is causing staff shortages as many people call in sick and isolate - including in hospitals. The number of Covid patients in intensive care is also increasing slightly.

German hospitals see Covid staff shortages and rising patient numbers

Covid-19 infections are sweeping through the country this summer. On Tuesday, Germany reported 147,489 Covid cases within the latest 24 hour period, and 102 deaths.

The number of seriously ill Covid patients in intensive care units in Germany rose to 1,000 on Sunday, and 1,062 on Monday, according to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI). The number of ICU patients hasn’t been at this level since mid-May.

At the last highest point – in December 2021 – just under 4,900 seriously ill patients were being treated with Covid-19 in ICUs, after which the figures dropped with phases where they plateaued. 

And now the increasing staff shortages – due to people getting Covid and having to isolate – is causing growing concern among hospitals and doctors, especially as experts believe it will get worse after summer. 

“We are receiving reports from all federal states that individual wards and departments are having to be closed, due to a lack of staff,” the head of the board of the German Hospital Association (DKG), Gerald Gaß, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.

At times, emergency admissions are also being cancelled at rescue coordination centres. “This situation worries us considerably with a view to the upcoming autumn,” said Gaß.

READ ALSO: German politicians clash over Covid rules for autumn

Infection figures have risen sharply in recent weeks. The 7-day incidence on Tuesday stood at 687.7 infections per 100,000 people, but experts believe many cases are going unreported. 

“Although the occupancy rate in intensive care is only rising moderately, it is relatively high for a summer, and the beds available are becoming fewer and fewer due to the shortage of staff,” the scientific director of the ICU registry, Christian Karagiannidis, told the Düsseldorf-based Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

He said clinics and hospitals should work to allocate capacity across the country.

“This includes regional networks for the best possible distribution of patients by level of care,” he said. “Cooperation, but also relieving the burden on staff, will be the order of the day this autumn and winter,” said Karagiannidis, who also sits on the government’s council of experts team.

Germany’s Covid-19 rules still require that people who get Covid isolate for at least five days or a maximum of 10 days. The rules differ from state to state on how people can end the quarantine period. But health and care workers need to have a negative Covid test (PCR or antigen) taken five days into isolation at the earliest before they can return to work, plus a prior 48-hour symptom-free period.

READ ALSO: The Covid rules in place across German states

The German Foundation for Patient Protection rejected a demand to shorten the quarantine period. Wolfgang Kubicki, vice-chairman of the FDP, had proposed people should be able to take a test after only three days to leave isolation.

This “fuels the uncontrolled spread of corona”, said Eugen Brysch, Chairman of the foundation. “That is why the isolation period for corona-positive patients must be extended to 10 days,” Brysch recommend, adding: “This may only be shortened if a PCR test is negative.”