Prevalence of Omicron in Germany unclear, cautions Health Minister

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said that reporting delays over the festive period have clouded the picture around the spread of the infectious Omicron variant.

Adverts for PCR testing at a pharmacy in Munich.
Adverts for PCR testing at a pharmacy in Munich. Photo: Peter Kneffel/dpa

The spread of the Omicron variant is “not accurately reflected in the official figures because of test failures and reporting delays,” Lauterbach told Bild newspaper on Wednesday. 

“I am currently obtaining an overall picture of the situation with the Robert Koch Institute and numerous data sources from all over Germany,” the Health Minister added.

A total of 10,443 suspected cases of infection with the Omicron variant have been reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), according to figures published on Wednesday.

The disease control agency said shortly before Christmas that it expects the variant to become dominant in the next two to three weeks.

Incomplete data

For the second year in a row, local health agencies have transferred incomplete data to the RKI over the Christmas period, while the disease control agency also points out that less testing has been done.

The RKI confirmed on Tuesday though that the number of likely Omicron cases jumped by 45 percent compared to the previous day. Only a small number of positive cases are tested in Germany for which variant of the virus is causing the infection.

Lauterbach’s warning on Omicron comes even as daily reported cases of new coronavirus infections are dropping in Germany.

The RKI announced on Wednesday morning that a further 40,043 cases had been reported to them over the previous 24 hours. The 7-day incidence of infection has dropped to 205, down from 215 on Tuesday and 289 cases per 100,000 people a week ago.

Nevertheless, the RKI points out that a drop in overall testing over the Christmas holidays could be obscuring the picture.

SEE ALSO: Top German court tells government to protect disabled with triage law

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

The Covid pandemic is continuing to cause problems around Germany, with concerns that the number of patients needing treatment will rise in the coming weeks.

German health agency expects number of Covid ICU patients to rise

In its weekly Covid report, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said that confirmed infections appeared to be rising in some German states, and falling in others.

But experts warned that the situation remained tense, with many infections not reported. 

Therefore, in the coming weeks, “hospitalisations, an increase in intensive care treatment and deaths are to be expected, especially among the elderly”, said the RKI.

People over the age of 80 “continue to be most affected by severe courses of the disease”, the experts said in their report. 

The incidence of infections is continuing to rise for this age group, and the number of outbreaks of Covid-19 in medical treatment facilities as well as in old people’s and nursing homes is going up.

READ ALSO: Which Covid rules are likely to return to Germany in autumn?

The number of patients with Covid-19 being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising slightly. In the previous week, the number was reported to be around 1,330. And on Thursday July 28th, 1,550 people were in ICUs in Germany with 484 receiving ventilation treatment, according to the DIVI intensive care register. 

The number of deaths in connection with the virus is currently around just over 400 per week. The RKI says this trend is a plateau.

When it comes to the overall picture of Covid in Germany, the RKI said there was a “sideways movement rather than a decreasing trend”.

Last week, the nationwide 7-day incidence decreased slightly compared to the previous week. The overall picture shows falling incidences in most western German states and Berlin, with incidences still rising slightly in the other eastern German states and Bavaria.

The RKI estimates there’s been a total of 800,000 to 1.5 million people with Covid (who also have symptoms) in the past week alone in Germany.

Last week experts warned that they expected the Covid situation to get worse in the coming weeks as many schools in Germany return after the summer break.

READ ALSO: Germany’s summer Covid wave set to get worse

The Omicron sub-variant BA.5, which has dominated in Germany since mid-June, has almost completely displaced other variants. It accounts for 89 percent of samples in the past week, the RKI said.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned people against underestimating getting Covid again.

The SPD politician pointed out that it was very easy to become infected with BA.5 – even for those who were infected with a previous type.

He warned that many could become seriously ill or die, plus there’s the risk of picking up Long Covid.

“Therefore, we have to solve the problem not by constant infection, but by better vaccines,” Lauterbach said.

‘Call things as they are’

Lauterbach, meanwhile, defended himself against his choice of words when describing the possibility of a new dangerous Covid variant emerging in autumn. 

In an interview with Bild newspaper in April he said: “It is quite possible that we will get a highly contagious Omicron variant that is as deadly as Delta – that would be an absolute killer variant.”

He was slammed for his dramatic choice of words. 

This week Lauterbach said: “I use few vocabulary that is apocalyptic. But sometimes you have to call things as they are.”

If there were a virus that linked the contagion of the BA.5 variant with the severe course of a Delta variant, “that would be a killer variant”, he maintained.

But he stressed that he had “not said that such a variant is definitely coming, but that we have to be prepared for such a variant”.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister calls on under 60s to get next Covid jab