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COVID-19

German health authority reports cases of Omicron in every state

According to Germany's Robert Koch Institute, the highly infectious Omicron variant of Covid has now arrived in every one of the country's 16 states - though Delta remains the dominant variant.

Munich city centre
Last-minute Christmas shoppers walk along Munich's pedestrianised shopping mile on Christmas Eve. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lennart Preiss

The number of detected Omicron cases has increased significantly in recent weeks, the public health authority revealed.

Speaking to Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland on Friday, RKI president Lothar Wieler said the Omicron outbreaks were “impressive” in scale. 

“Several people in a room with an infected person can become infected – and very many also become ill,” he explained.

This level of infectiousness of the new variant is completely different from Delta, he said. Delta has been the dominant variant in Germany since summer.

According to the RKI, Germany reported around 3,200 confirmed cases of Omicron in the run-up to December 23rd, with the vast majority of cases recorded in the past week or so. 

As of December 21st, there had been 441 confirmed cases of Omicron recorded in the country and 1,438 additional suspected cases from PCR test results. 

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 810 further cases of Omicron were confirmed by genome sequencing, suggesting that the variant is spreading rapidly. Of the 3,198 confirmed cases, 48 people were hospitalised and one person died after contracting the virus. 

However, an analysis of more than 1,200 confirmed cases suggested that people with complete vaccine protection or a booster jab mostly have mild symptoms, the most common being a sore throat and a cough. 

According to official government data, Omicron infections occur most frequently in the 15-34 age group, with almost 1,500 cases, and in the 34-59 age group, where 1,050 infections have been reported so far. The state with the highest number of Omicron cases is the populous western state of North-Rhine Westphalia.

READ ALSO: Germany reports almost 3,200 Omicron cases

Tighter restrictions 

For the second time, Germany is celebrating Christmas in the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic. With pandemic weariness growing among the general population, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier used this year’s Christmas speech to call for unity and cohesion in society. 

Stricter rules came into force in Hamburg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Christmas Eve restricting gatherings to a maximum of ten people – even for those with Covid immunity. The federal and state governments had agreed on Tuesday to introduce this requirement by December 28th at the latest, with most states opting to enforce this rule after Christmas. 

However, experts have stressed that with the expected high number of infected people in the course of the rapid spread of Omicron, a large number of people could nevertheless fall more seriously ill and have to be treated in hospital.

On Wednesday, RKI president Lothar Wieler had warned that the health system could be overloaded if the Omicron wave could not be slowed down with strict measures.

He said Omicron was on track to become the dominant variant in Germany in less than three weeks. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules and official advice for Christmas and New Year in Germany

Omicron is ‘writing the rules’

In an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Friday, virologist Christian Drosten – who sits on the Covid expert council – refused to say whether a future lockdown was needed to combat the more infectious Omicron variant.

The government would have to wait and see “whether the measures that are now in force and those that have been extended once again will work,” he said.

Christian Drosten
Virologist Christian Drosten has warned that Omicron operates under different rules than Delta. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

If the latest contact restrictions do not work as hoped, Drosten believes that entry rules to public venues could be tightened further to only allow fully vaccinated people with booster jabs into places like bars, restaurants and cinemas – a system he termed ‘1G’. 

Twice-vaccinated people are protected against severe courses even with Omicron, “but practically not against infection”, said the virologist from Berlin’s Charité hospital.

“However, those who have been boosted recently are likely to contribute less to onward transmission and are noticeably protected against the disease,” he explained. “With Delta, 2G and 3G may be enough, but now Omicron is writing the rules.”

On Friday morning, health authorities in Germany reported 35,431 new Covid infections to the institute within one day. The weekly incidence of new Covid infections per 100,000 people was 265.8, down from 280.3 the previous day.

Member comments

  1. Given the inevitable dominance of omichron, isn’t it about time that the children in the Bundestag stopped playing Brexit politics and opened the borders to countries of variant concern? I don’t see too many more mature nations shutting out Germany, despite the rampant spread of the variant here….

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HEALTH

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Seasonal flu vaccines, Covid boosters, and the monkeypox vaccine are recommended for risk groups in Germany as it gets colder. Here’s what you need to know.

When, where and how can I get the flu shot in Germany?

Flu cases are way up in Germany this year – back to over 22,000 nationwide so far, and those are just the laboratory-confirmed ones. With many Covid-19 restrictions also having slowed the spread of flu in 2020 and 2021, German doctors are particularly encouraging at-risk groups to get this year’s flu vaccine.

Who?

In principle, anyone in Germany can speak to their doctor and get the flu vaccine. However, it is recommended particularly for certain at-risk groups.

According to the German Robert Kock Institute (RKI), which advises the government on viruses, these groups include:

  • anyone over the age of 60
  • pregnant women from their second trimester
  • people with chronic underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, HIV, Multiple Sclerosis, or various heart conditions
  • People who live or work in care homes
  • Medical personnel
  • People who work in areas with particularly high amounts of traffic. These could include schools or Kitas, for example
  • People who live with or care for someone from one of these groups

When?

Flu season’s peak is normally expected in January. That’s why doctors advise you to have your protection in place before then. So the best time to get vaccinated for the flu is between October and December.

With the vaccine taking about 10-14 days to kick in, doctors advise making sure you have the shot by mid-December, so that when the season peaks in January, your body is prepared to fight off the virus if you come in contact with it.

Where?

The easiest place to get a flu vaccine is at your doctor’s office. However, some health authorities run public vaccination campaigns, depending on your federal state. Some workplaces may also administer flu shots on site once a year.

For the first time this season though, pharmacies in Germany will be able to administer a flu shot to any adult with statutory health insurance. Check with your local pharmacy to see if they do it.

Can I get the flu shot at the same time as my Covid-19 booster shot?

In most cases, there are no restrictions on getting the flu shot and a Covid booster at the same time. Most flu vaccines given in Germany are inactivated viruses, which can be administered simultaneously with a flu shot. You don’t have to wait between getting one shot and getting the other.

If giving it you at the same time, your doctor will likely use both arms – one for each vaccine.

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

What about Monkeypox?

Germany has now seen its total number of reported monkeypox cases hit 3,656—with around half of all cases being reported in Berlin. With more and more people getting vaccinated though, the seven-day average of new infections has slowed from a peak of 71 per day in mid-July to less than one a day in October.

That’s far less than the US rate of 105 a day or even Spain at just over four a day.

The vast majority of cases worldwide and in Germany have been detected in gay and bisexual men, whom German health authorities are still advising to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Other risk groups include people who work in certain laboratories where they might become exposed, and people who have already potentially been exposed.

Someone who suspects they’ve been in contact with a confirmed case of monkeypox is advised to get a vaccine shot within four days.

READ ALSO: Who can get the monkeypox vaccine in Germany – and how?

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