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How is the Omicron wave of Covid affecting Germany?

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

The Corona-Warn app shows a red Covid alert.
The Corona-Warn app shows a red Covid alert. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kira Hofmann

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

Member comments

  1. 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.

      1. I think you’ve missed my point a little. There is no evidence that the restrictions have done anything. There is however evidence that restrictions appear to actually make things worse.
        We can look at England and Scotland.
        Scotland had way more restrictions than England. Scotland suffered higher cases.
        France has absolutely abhorrent restrictions. Has way higher numbers.
        England are about to remove all restrictions their numbers are going down.

        We can only conclude the evidence is overwhelming that restrictions have not worked. The fear propaganda, while immensely successful. Could have lead to extra deaths. Possibly more than covid.

        All data is available on corona virus world in numbers and our world data. If I post links my posts tend to be moderated

        1. Statistical data can be (and is) used to “prove” practically any “result”, either one way or the other.

          I didn’t miss your point, it’s as valid as any other.
          Restrictions in Germany seem to have worked quite well up to now.
          France obviously suffered from the wind blowing in the wrong direction . . .

          1. Data can be used to prove any result. I would usually agree, but from German numbers I have been unable to prove that the restrictions have worked. Possibly slowed down the first wave. But that could also have been from peoples self control.

            I am staunchly against lockdowns and restrictions if it wasn’t at all obvious. The government dictats. The fear. People recoil away if you’ve not go enough masks on. (Aparently more than one is needed?) <this happened to me today. In Berlin. It was tragic.

            I am a firm believer that we should give information out in a calm and sensible manner. Allowing people to make their own decisions on what best way to protect themselves. No stranger should ever be allowed to demand to know your health status. And to "other " people is going a very dark way.
            Vaccine mandates have been shown to actually cause more reluctance than to not have them.
            (Study carried out with an MMR mandate in the UK)

            In particular to this vaccine. We could increase uptake.
            Make the Phama companies liable.
            Release up to date data. (Not 55years from pfizer.)
            Show the contracts un redacted (maybe block the prices).
            And not vilify people who are unsure.

            Although that probably wouldn't work anymore because of the way people that have not been jabbed so far have been treated. And the way the double jabbed are being treated. Well, anyone without a booster.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now