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HEALTH

Germany warns of ‘escalation’ in Covid cases

Germany's Health Ministry said Friday the country was seeing a surge in coronavirus infections and warned that the situation was likely to worsen as winter approaches.

An S-Bahn train in Frankfurt offers vaccinations without appointment (or travel ticket) on Friday.
An S-Bahn train in Frankfurt offers vaccinations without appointment (or travel ticket) on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

“With the rising infection numbers we are seeing an escalation of the situation,” health ministry spokesman Oliver Ewald told reporters in Berlin.

The concern comes a day after Germany’s Robert Koch health institute (RKI) said in its weekly report that 7-day coronavirus incidence rates had been rising since the end of September.

READ ALSO: Germany’s real Covid fourth wave has started, says health expert

The upwards trend “became visible in almost all age groups over the past week and it is to be expected that the increase in case numbers will pick up speed in the further course of autumn and winter,” Ewald said.

Germany recorded 19,572 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours on Friday, according to the RKI, up 70 percent on a week earlier.

Friday’s figure was the highest since early May, when far fewer Germans were vaccinated against Covid.

The country’s 7-day incidence rate jumped to 95.1 new infections per 100,000 people, also the highest level since May.

The Health Ministry said the spike in cases had not yet led to an “increased dynamic” in Covid patients needing intensive care. However, intensive care doctors have said they are concerned. 

The leaders of Germany’s 16 regional states are meeting to discuss the next steps in the fight against the pandemic, and are expected to keep existing
measures largely in place.

FACT CHECK: Will Germany’s Covid restrictions end in November?

The RKI in its report pleaded for all citizens, including those who are fully vaccinated or have already recovered from Covid, to keep respecting the recommended health guidelines.

These include wearing face masks, airing out rooms, keeping a physical distance and regularly washing hands.

“Unnecessary close contacts should be reduced and in particular indoor situations that could become so-called super spreading events should be avoided when possible,” the report added.

More than 66 percent of the population in Germany, a country of some 83 million people, is now fully vaccinated against Covid. Nearly 70 percent have received at least the first dose.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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