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How is the Omicron wave of Covid affecting Germany?

The Local Germany
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How is the Omicron wave of Covid affecting Germany?
The Corona-Warn app shows a red Covid alert. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kira Hofmann

Covid infections are rocketing in Germany, but how is the current wave affecting people, and what's the picture in hospitals?


What's the latest?

Germany on Wednesday reported 112,323 Covid-19 infections in the latest 24 hour period  - the highest number since the pandemic began. In the same period there were 239 Covid-related deaths. 

Germany's Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said the true number of infections could be double the official figures.

The 7-day incidence was 584.4 infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday. 

READ ALSO: Germany sees more than 100,000 Covid cases in 24 hours

What about the situation in hospitals?

Initial data shows that the Omicron variant tends to cause milder illness than previous Covid variants like Delta, and therefore fewer hospital admissions. At the moment, German authorities say the vast majority of Covid patients in hospitals are unvaccinated. 

The Robert Koch Institute's report on Wednesday said the Covid hospitalisation incidence was 3.34 per 100,000 people - a slight increase from Friday when the 7-day incidence of hospitalisations stood at 3.24 per 100,000 people. For the over 60s age group, the hospitalisation rate is 5.21 per 100,000 people.

For comparison: on November 23rd the number of Covid patients of any age in German hospitals was around 5.6 per 100,000 residents.

The DIVI intensive care register showed on Tuesday there were 2,664 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units across Germany, with 1,629 people receiving ventilation treatment. 

But medics warn it's still too early to tell how the Omicron wave will fully impact hospitals in Germany. 

"At the moment, we cannot yet make out the Omicron wave in the intensive care units," Gernot Marx, president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told Germany's RND at the weekend.

The head of the DIVI intensive care register, Christian Karagiannidis, said he doesn't expect a rapid resurgence in the number of ICU patients.

Whereas with Delta, about one in five Covid patients who came to hospital needed intensive care, experts believe it's about one in 10 for Omicron.

However, at the moment it is mainly younger people with lots of contacts who are getting infected in Germany. In this age group, the risk of severe illness is much lower.


"We are currently seeing a spread of Omicron in the younger age groups and not yet in the over 60s," said Karagiannidis.

"We'll have to wait and see when Omicron hits the over-60s and the unvaccinated."

Authorities are also worried about too many people getting infected at the same time, causing vulnerable people to become ill and for critical infrastructure to struggle if many workers have to take sick leave.

The Our World in Data chart below shows how other European countries are also battling soaring Omicron rates.

What does this mean for Covid measures?

It's a tricky situation for German politicians. They want to protect as many people as possible from severe illness and prevent hospitals getting overburdened. 

But if a variant is said to be less aggressive than previous variants, restrictions become harder to justify. 

Germany already has strict measures in places, including the 2G-plus rules which mean entry to many public places is only for people who are vaccinated/recovered with a booster shot or negative test. 

Meanwhile, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is pushing for a general vaccine mandate. 

Politicians will be watching to see how the Omicron variant develops over the coming weeks - and how hospitals are affected - to decide on their next move. 


When can we expect Germany to ease rules?

That is still a bit unclear. Experts are still warning that Covid can't be left to run through the population with no restrictions. 

But the more people are immunised through vaccinations or infections, the less likely it is that the health system will be overburdened, virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit told German broadcaster Tagesschau.

Schmidt-Chanasit pointed to the declining numbers in the UK. 


"You can expect the same in this country with a little delay," he said. Experts still expect high incidences in January and February.

"Based on the data from other countries and our measures in Germany, this wave could be over in one or two months," said Schmidt-Chanasit. "Furthermore, there is the strong seasonality of the virus from spring onwards."

Lauterbach said this week that the peak of the Omicron wave in Germany would probably be reached in mid-February. The time for a new discussion would be "in spring - after the end of the Omicron wave", according to Schmidt-Chanasit.

Some politicians have already been calling for a different strategy. 

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder told the Münchner Merkur: "Omicron is not Delta. This means that we have to precisely adjust which rules are absolutely necessary, but also proportionate."

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says top virologist


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Anonymous 2022/01/20 17:08
Well, we could bang on about this for ever and a day. I'll continue to follow the science, from numerous sources. As it happens, I'm against following any rules that I disagree with, but needs must.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/20 19:17
    That we could. But for yours and our sakes. Dont follow it blindly. The government have been non stop incorrect. “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Anonymous 2022/01/19 13:10
Well with the data showing hospitalisation going down. Is there evidence of the 90% un-vaccinated? What is classed as unvaccinated? How many of the hospitalisation group are in for other ailments and just so happen to have covid? Can we start discussing living with the virus now? Not hiding behind our sofas and alienating portions of our society. But actually getting on. I think its time we admit none of these measures have done anything to stop covid its been an abject failure from the start.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/20 11:28
    The measures haven't stopped covid - they have significantly reduced its effects.
  • Anonymous 2022/01/19 20:04
    Amen to that.

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