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COVID-19

Germany’s Covid-19 incidence tops 300 for the first time 

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Monday reported the number of new infections per 100,000 people in seven days as 303 - the highest incidence since the pandemic began.

A sign outside a chemist in Berlin shows Covid-19 rapid tests are free of charge.
A sign outside a chemist in Berlin shows Covid-19 rapid tests are free of charge. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Health authorities also reported 23,607 Covid-19 infections within 24 hours. Last Thursday, the number of daily infections reached a record high of 50,196 – an increase of over 30,000 within one week. 

The RKI has recorded 5,045,076 confirmed Covid-19 infections since the beginning of the pandemic, though the actual total is likely to be a lot higher.

The number of Covid patients in hospitals per 100,000 people in seven days (7-day incidence) was 4.65 on Monday. In some areas intensive care units are struggling, while many hospitals are cancelling or rescheduling non-emergency operations to divert staff to critical units. 

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to working from home as infections rise

In light of the rapidly worsening situation, the head of the German Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has called for an extension to the ‘Covid state of emergency’ which is set to expire on November 25th.  

A nationwide Covid-19 state of emergency, which is a special clause in the German constitution, allows the federal and state governments to order measures without the approval of parliaments. It was first declared in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic. 

“We continue to have a pandemic of national proportions,” Montgomery told the Rheinische Post. “It is absurd to want to talk about lifting emergency measures in the face of incidences around 300.

“The winter is getting cold. It’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t turn bitter and deadly, too.”

Montgomery also called for significantly increasing the pressure on the unvaccinated.

“Vaccinations should be compulsory for anyone who has a position of responsibility with respect to protected persons, i.e., in old people’s homes, hospitals and schools,” he said.

“Whoever doesn’t want to get vaccinated shouldn’t be allowed to work in these places.”

FDP Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki recently defended the plan to end the state of emergency, telling German news magazine Spiegel: “There is an epidemic situation, but the so-called ‘epidemic situation of national relevance’ is a legal construct that the previous federal government used to give the federal and state governments very far-reaching powers.

“We have to end these serious encroachments on fundamental rights, and parliament must regain control of corona policy.”

The coalition parties negotiating to form a new government are proposing a raft of measures that states can bring in after the state of emergency ends.

Meanwhile, crisis Covid talks are set to take place between the federal government and states this Thursday to decide on how to deal with the spiralling Covid numbers.

READ ALSO: Could Germany really see a lockdown this winter?

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of ‘difficult’ winter

With infection numbers shooting up once again in Germany, states are set to bring in a new set of Covid measures on October 1st.

Germany to bring in new Covid rules ahead of 'difficult' winter

From Saturday, masks will no longer be required on commercial flights, though people will still be expected to wear an FFP2 mask on long-distance trains.

States will also be given the option to introduce mandatory masks in other public indoor spaces, including on local public transport and in schools. If they choose to bring in masks, they’ll also have the freedom to introduce exceptions to masks for people who are recently vaccinated or who have tested negative for Covid.

States will also be able to introduce compulsory testing in schools and nurseries.

READ ALSO: German states likely to keep mask mandate on public transport

Speaking at a press conference alongside Robert Koch Institute (RKI) chair Lothar Wieler on Friday, German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended the decision to keep Covid rules in place when other countries in Europe have largely got rid of their pandemic measures. 

“It’s not for me to criticise what other countries are doing,” said Lauterbach. “We have a particularly difficult winter ahead of us due to the energy crisis, we don’t want to make it worse through the Covid crisis.”

The SPD politician also defended plans for mandatory masks for residents and staff in nursing and care homes. Having 40 or 50 vulnerable people together in an enclosed space is “extremely high-risk”, he said. 

Under the new rules set to be introduced on Saturday, residents of care homes will be expected to wear FPP2 masks in all common areas of the home, and will only be able to take them off in their bedrooms.

“For people in nursing homes, the FFP2 mask requirement means a considerable cut in their quality of life,” Regina Görner, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Senior Citizens’ Organisations (Bagso), told DPA:

“The nursing home is their home, in which they can then no longer move freely without a mask.”

Visitors to nursing homes, meanwhile, will have to supply a negative Covid test, while staff will be tested three times a week. 

Under the autumn and winter rules, people across Germany will also be required to wear an FFP2 mask at their doctor’s surgery and in medical outpatient facilities such as hospitals.

“We’re better prepared than last autumn,” Lauterbach told reporters on Friday. “We have the infection numbers under control, we have this wave under control.” 

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS – Germany’s new Covid-19 rules for autumn

Steep rise in cases

As the weather turns colder, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has reported a steep rise in respiratory infections, including Covid-19.

Last week, the number of Covid patients jumped dramatically from 500,000 to 1.2 million per week, with cases rising significantly in every age group.

Meanwhile, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people shot up from 409 on Thursday to 466 on Friday. The previous week, the weekly incidence stood at 294 per 100,000 people. 

The numbers are believed to be partially inflated by the ongoing Oktoberfest beer festival, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic started. In Munich, the location of the festival, the weekly incidence is almost 800. 

Speaking at the press conference in Berlin on Friday, RKI chair Wieler warned people not to get complacent about the threat of infection.

“A mild course of illness simply means not ending up in hospital,” he said. “We should be conscious of how much risk we want take on, and how much risk we can avoid.”

RKI chief Lothar Wieler

Robert Koch Institute chair Lothar Wieler (l) and Heath Minister Karl Lauterbach (r) hold a press conference in Berlin on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Wolfgang Kumm

Despite the looming energy crisis, the RKI boss advised the public to ensure that rooms were well ventilated, adding that spaces normally occupied by a large number of people should be aired out more regularly.

He also advised people with Covid symptoms to stay home until they felt better in order to avoid passing on any infections, and warned that people should be especially careful to avoid contact with vulnerable people.

“Just like before, these people need our solidarity,” he said. 

Self-isolation and quarantine rules vary from state to state, but people who test positive for Covid generally have to isolate for a minimum of five days and a maximum of 10.

In some cases, people can take an additional Covid test in order to end their isolation early.

The RKI has also recommended that people wear a mask in public enclosed spaces. 

READ ALSO: What will the Covid situation in Germany look like this autumn?

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