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COVID-19

Germany sees highest number of daily Covid cases ever

Germany has registered nearly 34,000 Covid infections in 24 hours - the highest number since the pandemic began.

A woman wears an FFP2 mask in Straubing, Bavaria.
A woman wears an FFP2 mask in Straubing, Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Armin Weigel

The number of new daily Covid-19 infections has risen to a record level in Germany.

Health offices reported a total of 33,949 new infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for public health within a period of 24 hours – more than ever before. The previous daily record was 33,777 cases logged on December 18th 2020 – at the peak of the second wave. 

However, experts say the Monday holiday (All Saints’ Day) in five German states could play a role in the figures. After public holidays, there is often a delay in the reporting of cases which pushes numbers up later in the week. 

Regardless, though, Covid infections have been rising in Germany in recent weeks, raising fears about the winter months. The number of deaths has also been increasing, along with the number of people being admitted to intensive care.

According to the latest RKI figures, the nationwide 7-day incidence – i.e. the number of new infections per 100,000 residents within one week – stands at 154.5, compared to 146.6 on Wednesday and 130.2 a week ago.

READ ALSO: Why are Covid infections in Germany rising?

The number of Covid patients admitted to hospitals per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days – the most important parameter for a possible tightening of restrictions – was 3.62 on Wednesday, up from 3.29 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, there were 165 Covid-related deaths across Germany in the last 24 hours. 

The Our World in Data chart shows the number of confirmed Covid cases per million people in a selection of countries including Germany. Cases have been significantly rising recently in neighbouring Austria and Switzerland. 

What are German authorities doing about it?

The all-time high coincides with the start of a conference between the federal and state health ministers taking place in Lindau on Lake Constance. They want to set the Covid health strategy for winter. One of the issues to be discussed is how to get more booster shots given out. Compulsory testing in nursing homes is also on the agenda.

On Wednesday, caretaker Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) reiterated his call for a faster pace on booster vaccinations.

READ ALSO:

He wants regions to inform all residents over the age of 60 to get a top-up Covid jab. State health ministers have proposed informing the over-70s, according to a draft proposal. 

Bavaria, which currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers, also wants to make a new push to make booster vaccinations possible for everyone six months after their last jab.

The official recommendation at the moment from the standing committee for vaccinations (STIKO) is for the over 70s, people in care and those with pre-existing conditions to get a top-up shot, as well as those who’ve had vector vaccines (AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson).

It must be possible to “get ahead of the situation”, said Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU). “We will have to discuss very, very clearly which way to go now.”

Some states are also now beginning to tighten their Covid health pass measures (known as 3G or 2G rules), with pressure being piled on those eligible for vaccination who choose not to get it. 

READ ALSO: How German states are tightening Covid rules for winter

Will vaccination centres reopen?

Health ministers are also debating the reopening of vaccination centres.

Spahn said that booster vaccinations do not necessarily have to take place in large centres. However, offers outside doctors’ offices are important because too many people who want to be vaccinated “currently cannot find a doctor who will vaccinate them”, he said. 

Nearly 67 percent of the German population is vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest data.

Breaking it down into age groups, around 85.4 percent of the over 60s are fully vaccinated, while 73.3 percent of the 18-59-year-olds are inoculated. 

But experts warn that immunity wanes after a period of around six months.

Spahn said on Wednesday that in three months there had “only been two million third vaccinations (booster jabs)” which he said was “insufficient”.

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COVID-19 STATS

EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany

Covid numbers throughout Germany are rising, with the states of Saarland, Bavaria and some regions of Hesse seeing particularly high numbers of infections. We look at recent stats, and explore what they mean.

EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany

What’s the overall picture?

On Monday, Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a nationwide incidence of 598.1 infections per 100,000 people within seven days – an increase of over 100 from the previous week, when the incidence was at 471.1.

According to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), as of Sunday there were 1,468 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units throughout the country – an increase of nearly 50 percent from the previous week when 996 people were reported to be in ICUs with Covid.

But the numbers of infections and hospitalisations vary greatly throughout the country.

States like Berlin and Hamburg, for example, have currently relatively low Covid incidence rates, with 351.6 and 219.0 confirmed infections per 100,000 residents respectively.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that because rapid Covid tests are no longer free for everyone, fewer positive tests are being reported to authorities. 

These are the areas which are currently being hardest hit by the autumn wave.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

Saarland

The Covid case volume in the southwestern state of Saarland has been far above the national average since the end of September.

On Monday, the RKI reported an incidence of 1248.5  infections per 100,000 people in seven days – more than twice as high as in Germany as a whole.

Saarland’s health minister Magnus Jung (SPD) called the rapid development of infections “worrying”  and said that the situation is tense for both the healthcare system and critical infrastructure in the region. He said that the situation in hospitals was “alarming”, as many planned operations were having to be cancelled or rescheduled due to staffing and occupancy issues. 

READ ALSO: What to know about getting a fourth Covid vaccination in Germany

As a result, the state government is currently considering all options for improving the situation – including amending the state’s Covid regulations to introduce stricter measures, such as mask-wearing in public authority buildings, the health minister said.  

The state health minister has appealed to people to wear masks indoors and to test themselves before attending events and before private meetings. 

As far as the care of Covid patients in intensive care units is concerned, the Saarbrücken Regional Association is currently in eighth place in a nationwide comparison of counties. Here, the proportion of all Covid patients requiring intensive care is 26 percent.

Bavaria

The Covid autumn wave is resulting in 7-day incidences of over 1,000 infections per 100,000 people in more and more Bavarian cities and counties, and is putting a strain on hospitals. On Friday morning, the RKI reported official figures above 1,000 for nine counties and the state capital Munich.

Guests celebrate in the Schützenzelt at the start of the 187th Munich Oktoberfest. Covid infections rose significantly in Munich since the start of the event. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

On Monday, the 7-day incidence for the whole of Bavaria stood at 810.5 infections per 100,000 people – an increase of almost 25 percent within one week and the second-highest figure of all German states.

READ ALSO: Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

The increasing infection numbers are being felt in hospitals in Bavaria too. On Friday, the city of Munich reported an occupancy of 552 patients with Covid in regular, intensive care and transitional care units – a 47 percent increase from the previous week.

Hesse

The central state of Hesse, where the city of Frankfurt is located, currently has the third highest 7-day incidence in the country – with 746.1 cases per 100,000.

The district of Vogelsbergkreis is currently experiencing particularly high numbers of Covid infections, and as of Monday had an incidence of 1,115.7.

As a result, three of the main hospitals in the district announced a ban on visitors to the hospital last week.

Hygiene and safety expert at the Eichhof hospital in the Vogelsbergkreis, Dr. Gerhard Holzberger, told a local newspaper: “There is no alternative to the measure, the situation is again clearly tense in all areas of life – but especially in the healthcare system.” 

Thuringia

Although the incidence in Thuringia is currently below the national average (475.8 infections per 100,000 people in seven days on Monday) the state currently has the highest number of Covid patients in intensive care in the country. 

In the district of Eisenach in Thuringia, the percentage of Covid patients in intensive care is currently at 47 percent.

What do the rising numbers mean for Germany?

In its weekly report released last Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) pointed out that it’s difficult to interpret how dangerous Covid infections really are just by looking at the data.

READ ALSO: When – and how – people can get the new Omicron vaccine in Germany

That’s because the figures relating to Covid-positive patients in intensive care don’t make clear whether a patient is in intensive care due to a Covid infection, or if they require treatment for another illness and happen to have Covid too.

A nurse stands in the Covid isolation area of a hospital intensive care unit in Niedersachsen. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Friso Gentsch

As for the increasing 7-day incidence of cases per 100,000 residents, many medical experts have said that, with 76.3 percent of the population now fully vaccinated, they expect most people to experience mild cases of Covid this autumn and winter.

The main concern related to rising Covid numbers, however, is that – as is currently the case in Saarland – rising infections will mean staff shortages in hospitals and other critical services.

People have to isolate for at least five days or a maximum of 10 days in Germany if they get a positive test result.

In an interview last week with the German Medical Journal, Christian Karagiannidis, president of the German Society for Internal Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DGIIN), said that the mood amongst hospital staff up and down the country is currently tense.

“Staffing levels are thin,” he said. “If there are also severe absences due to Covid or other infectious diseases such as influenza, the atmosphere quickly deteriorates. The system is no longer resilient.”

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