What effect is the Omicron wave having on German hospitals?

The Omicron variant is already dominant in parts of Germany
The Omicron variant is already dominant in parts of Germany (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)
Omicron is fast becoming Germany’s dominant COVID-19 variant. But despite historically high case counts over the last month, hospitalisations are lower than in January 2021.

COVID-19 hospitalisations in Germany are continuing on a downward trend, even as the country deals with pronounced spikes in new infections and an increasingly prevalent Omicron variant.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which advises the government, recorded 58,912 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday. The institute cautions that the recent holiday season could be contributing to some late reporting, which could be skewing the daily case count.

However, German case numbers have been at regular record highs since the beginning of December. The number of confirmed cases of the Omicron variant has also continued a steady climb – with over 35,000 confirmed Omicron cases, more than triple the number registered just a week ago.

The actual number could be even higher, as only a small portion of tests performed in Germany are sequenced to identify variants.

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Omicron is already the dominant variant in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. It’s also now estimated to account for about 44 percent of all cases in Berlin.

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

Yet despite having an 88 percent higher average case count now than a year ago, hospitalisations in Germany are about 36 percent lower now than they were at the same time in 2021.

At the moment, just over 70 percent of people in Germany are fully vaccinated, while around 40 percent have already had a booster shot.

The effect of vaccination on hospitalisation numbers is most evident in people who are 60 years of age and over. In this age group, the unvaccinated are at a much higher risk of hospitalisation than those who have been fully vaccinated or boosted.

Death rates in Germany from COVID-19 are also down markedly from their record highs a year ago. They’re continuing their current downward trend – even as case counts rise and Omicron becomes increasingly dominant.

This comes as the World Health Organization says it’s seeing more and more evidence suggesting that Omicron causes milder symptoms than earlier COVID-19 variants.

READ ALSO: Top virologist signals support for shortening quarantine in Germany

Amongst other measures, German federal and state leaders are meeting on Friday to discuss whether quarantine times should be reduced in light of recent Omicron evidence.

Germany has already removed its travel ban and mandatory isolation period for travellers from countries where Omicron is already dominant, such as the UK.

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


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