German hospitals see sharp increase in Covid-19 patients

Covid-19 infections have been rising dramatically in Germany - and there are now fears about the increase in people being admitted to intensive care units.

A sign to a Covid-19 ward in a Dresden hospital.
A sign to a Covid-19 ward in a Dresden hospital. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael

On Thursday Germany reported 28.037 Covid-19 infections in the 24 hours – nearly 12,000 more than a week ago when 16,077 new cases were logged. During the same time period there were 126 Covid-related deaths – the highest number of deaths since June.

The 7-day incidence jumped to 130.2 Covid cases per 100,000 people on Thursday from 118 the previous day. A week ago the incidence was 85.6.

Now health experts are sounding the alarm about the situation in hospitals – and are urging people to get vaccinated. 

Chairman of the board of the German Hospital Association, Gerald Gaß, said “We are in a critical pandemic situation.”

Gaß said that the number of patients hospitalised with a Covid infection had risen significantly within a week. 

The German Intensive Care register (DIVI) showed that 1,768 Covid-19 patients were in ICU across Germany on October 27th, with 918 receiving ventilation treatment. Doctors say the majority of patients are unvaccinated. There are almost 4,300 Covid patients in regular hospital wards across Germany, reported DPA.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) recorded the 7-day incidence of hospitalised cases as 3.07 per 100,000 population on Wednesday – up from 2.13 last Tuesday. 

“If this trend continues, we will have 3,000 patients in intensive care again in just two weeks,” Gaß said.

“Even if the hospitals can manage this, it will then not be possible without restricting regular operations,” said the head of the association. It means that doctors in hospitals may have to postpone scheduled, less urgent treatments – like in the previous Covid waves. 

At the peak of the pandemic in January 2021, more than 5,700 Corona patients were receiving intensive care treatment. 

The Statista graph below shows the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care in Germany throughout the crisis up to October 26th.

Infografik: Aufwärtsstrend bei Corona-Intensivfällen setzt sich fort | Statista

Source: Statista

READ ALSO: Germany sees steep rise in Covid cases

The president of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, told the Augsburger Allgemeine on Thursday that those eligible for vaccination who do not get their jabs now are risking their lives, and those of others. “We must try everything in our power to increase vaccination rates,” he said.

“With high vaccination coverage of the population, there are many more mild courses (of Covid-19) – they don’t need to go to hospital, but many unvaccinated people still fall seriously ill.”

Experts have also flagged up staff shortages, in part because of doctors and nurses leaving intensive care medicine due to being overburdened in the pandemic. 

Concerns about younger people 

In view of the increased Covid rates, especially in younger age groups, paediatricians are pushing for rapid Covid-19 vaccinations for under 12-year-olds.

“We are hoping that in the next few weeks there will be a European approval of the BioNTech vaccine for the age group of five to 11-year-olds, which will then also be adopted in Germany,” said the President of the German Society for Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Jörg Dötsch.

He said the German government could then advise this age group to get vaccinated, even without an explicit recommendation by the Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO). The STIKO recommendation for 5-11 year-olds could then follow in the following weeks after a detailed examination of the data on side effects, Dötsch said.

This scenario happened earlier this year with older children. Now both the government and STIKO recommends that everyone over the age of 12 gets the jab.

According to RKI data from Thursday, 66.5 percent of people in Germany are fully vaccinated.

Against the backdrop of rising cases, Germany is discussing letting the pandemic ‘state of emergency’ expire on November 25th. 

However, the parties in talks to form a new government – the Social Democrats, Greens and FDP, said on Wednesday they want to form a new legal basis for German states to keep Covid measures in place until March 20th, 2022. 

Member comments

  1. For the same reason that Covid tests are no longer free, I feel that the unvaccinated that are admitted to hospital should be charged €50,00 per day and those in intensive care €100,00 per day for the entire stay in hospital AND / OR be refused anti Hepatitis, Yellow fever etc. jabs when they want to holiday in exotic lands. After all is said and done, a jab is a jab.

    1. I get it. In my home country, average care for a hospitalized COVID patient runs $50,000 while the jab runs $120. When I’ve mentioned to friends and family something along the lines of what you said, that the unvaccinated should bear the costs of their own stupid choices, I’m reminded that obese people don’t get charged more when they get sick even though clearly, their choices impacted them and costs in a negative fashion. I see both sides, but I think everyone should choose to be vaccinated.

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EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.