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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

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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