Germany sees spike in Covid infections after New Year

Bremen shopping mile
Pedestrians walk through the high street in Bremen in the days after Christmas. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte
Covid infections jumped for the fifth day in a row in Germany after the New Year. But the country's public health authority believes the actual figures could be much higher due to underreporting.

The 7-day incidence of Covid infections went up for the fifth day in a row after the New Year weekend, despite potential underreporting by local health authorities over the festive break.

As of Monday, the Robert Koch Institute recorded a weekly incidence of 232, up from 222.7 a day ago and 222.7 a week ago.

The number of new cases recorded within 24 hours also rose from 13,908 on December 27th to 18,518 on Monday. The number of Covid-related deaths, however, remained relatively stable, with 69 recorded on Monday compared to 68 a week before. 

Since fewer tests are taken and the results are often reported to health authorities late during a holiday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has cautioned that the figures may still present an inaccurate picture of Covid’s prevalence in Germany.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) believes the actual weekly incidence of new Covid cases could be around two or three times larger than the RKI’s confirmed numbers.

Authorities don’t expect to get a clear picture of the actual Covid situation until mid-January.

Bremen sees highest incidence

The northern city-state of Bremen saw the highest incidence of all the federal states, with local health authorities reporting 469 new Covid infections per 100,000 people within a week. This could, however, be due to higher levels of testing and reporting in the state over the holidays.

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Thuringia has the second-highest 7-day incidence with 404 new cases per 100,000 people, followed by Hamburg with 397. The western state of Rhineland-Palatinate, meanwhile, had the lowest incidence with 161.

On a district level, the Ilm district in Thuringia had the highest incidence in the country, with 820 new cases per 100,000 residents reported within a week. Just 68 percent of residents of Thuringia have received a full course of Covid jabs, making it the third least-vaccinated state in Germany.

Omicron dominant in Schleswig-Holstein

Germany is currently bracing for another wave of Covid infections, thanks to the growing presence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in the country.

Since German laboratories started testing for the variant, there have been more than 30,000 confirmed or suspected cases of Omicron, of which around 300 were hospitalised and six people died.

Experts believe it is likely to take over from Delta as Germany’s dominant Covid variant in the early weeks of January.

It has already become the dominant variant in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, and the country’s current travel ban and 14-day mandatory isolation period for arrivals from countries like the UK–where Omicron is already dominant–is set to end Tuesday.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany removing UK from virus variant list affects you

With fears growing over a potential shortage of workers in the event of a severe Omicron wave, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) has confirmed that ministers are considering shortening the time that people have to quarantine after having contact with an infected person.

Currently, people are subject to two weeks of quarantine if they come into close contact with someone infected with Omicron.

This could be shortened to as little as five days under a test-to-release scheme, or scrapped entirely for people who have had booster jabs.

Health ministers are likely to draft another ordinance on Covid rules for tackling the Omicron variant by January 7th. 

READ ALSO: German politicians float shorter quarantine times for Omicron wave


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