Germany’s Covid incidence falls for second day in a row

Germany's 7-day incidence of Covid infections has fallen for the second day in a row, signalling that the Omicron wave could be

People walk in the centre of Erfurt, Thuringia, on February 11th
People walk in the centre of Erfurt, Thuringia, on February 11th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

On Monday, the incidence was 1,459.8 infections per 100,000 people within seven days. On Sunday, the incidence stood at 1,466.5 – and had fallen for the first time since the end of December. 

A week ago, the nationwide 7-day incidence was 1,426 cases per 100,000 residents. 

Germany recorded 76,465 Covid-19 infections and 42 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. Numbers are usually lower on Mondays following reporting delays over the weekend.

Nevertheless, experts say the real numbers are much higher because many infections go undetected. 

Has Germany broken the wave?

It’s difficult to judge whether the decline in the nationwide incidence represents a turning point in the Omicron wave. 

It could be that the reporting and testing system is too overburdened to monitor all infections. Plus, some people are not having their positive antigen test clarified with a PCR test, which means they don’t show up in the statistics. 

However, experts and politicians have said that Germany is on the cusp of overcoming the Omicron wave. 

On Monday a draft plan said that the government and states plan to end most Covid rules in March.

READ ALSO: Germany’s expert council signals support for relaxing Covid rules

What’s the situation in hospitals?

The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals per 100,000 residents within seven days was 6.46 on Friday, (on Thursday the incidence was 6.23) according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

On Sunday, February 13th, there were 2,438 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units across Germany, with 1,149 receiving ventilation treatment. 

Meanwhile, according to a German newspaper report, the RKI expects a new Covid-19 wave in autumn.

“The endemic stage has not yet been reached – we are in a transitional phase,” said Die Welt, citing an internal assessment of the situation by the institute. 

The RKI reportedly said that a new Covid wave in autumn is “to be firmly expected”.

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

As the weather warms up and tourism returns to Germany, this spring feels more normal than the last two years. So what is the pandemic situation in Germany - and how will it develop?

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

Covid cases falling – but lots of unreported infections

The number of Covid infections in Germany has been falling recently, according to official figures. On Tuesday, 107,568 Covid infections were logged within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 218 deaths. The 7-day incidence fell to 522.7 infections per 100,000 people. 

The Robert Koch Institute’s weekly report from May 5th stated: “The peak of the current wave has clearly been passed, many hospitalisation indicators and and deaths continue to decrease.”

But experts warned that “the infection pressure remains high with almost 600,000 Covid-19 cases transmitted to the RKI within the last week”.

It’s worth keeping in mind that many cases of Covid are going unreported. 

Johannes Nießen, chairman of the Federal Association of Public Health Service Physicians, told Tagesschau: “Many rapid tests are not confirmed by PCR testing. And since only PCR testing is included in the incidence-value calculation, we assume that the incidence value is at least twice as high as reported.”

READ ALSO: Germany reports no Covid deaths: What does it mean?

Changes to testing 

There was a time a few months ago when you had to queue for a long time to get a Covid test in Germany. But after the testing priorities changed (with a focus on PCR testing for key workers and vulnerable groups) and Covid restrictions were eased, test stations became quieter. 

And at the end of May, there will be another key change – government-funded Schnelltests will no longer be free to the public. So it won’t be possible to run to your nearest test station to check on your infection status if you think you have Covid. You’ll either need to buy a self-test or pay for a test at the centre. 

A pop-up Covid testing station in Münich.

A pop-up Covid testing station in Münich. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

… but there are still Covid restrictions in place 

The so-called 3G and 2G rules – meaning people had to show some kind of proof to enter a venue like a restaurant – are no longer in place across Germany. 

Mask rules were also relaxed around the beginning of April.

But people in Germany still have to wear a Covid mask on public transport as well as long-distance trains and planes. They also remain in places where there are lots of vulnerable people such as hospitals, care homes and shelters for the homeless.

Some independent businesses and organisations can, however, ask visitors to wear a mask or take a test. 

Covid isolation rules are still in place but they have changed, too.

Now people who get a positive Covid test have to isolate for at least five days. They have the possibility to end it after five days if they haven’t had symptoms for 48 hours, or with a negative test (depending on the state rules). If symptoms or positive test results persist, isolation can last a maximum of 10 days. 

READ ALSO: Germany sets out new Covid isolation rules

Reinfections on the rise

It is unclear exactly how many people have been infected more than once. But figures from the Baden-Württemberg state health office show that cases of reinfection are increasing. In December 2021, the share of reinfections in the south-west state stood at 0.5 percent, and in April it rose to 3.6 percent. However, these are only the numbers that have been reported. 

Experts say the reason for the increase in reinfections since the beginning of the year is the Omicron variant. Virologist Martin Stürmer told Tagesschau: “In the beginning, we had the variants Alpha to Delta. The variants were so similar that the antibodies continued to provide good protection against infection or reinfection after vaccination or infection.

“With the Omicron variant, however, the virus has changed so much that this is no longer the case, so that reinfections occur more frequently despite vaccination, boosting or recovery status.”

However, Stürmer said vaccination does protect against severe illness. 

Within the Omicron variant, reinfection with the BA.2 sub-variant after an infection with BA.1 is rare, according to Stürmer. 

Although Omicron has been shown to cause less severe illness in the population in general, ‘long Covid’ – where symptoms persist for a longer period of time – is still a concern and something experts in Germany are watching closely. 

What about new variants?

Experts are urging people to be aware that new variants could emerge in the current climate. 

Stürmer said it’s important to keep in mind that “by allowing a lot of infection, we also allow the emergence of new variants, because basically the mutation rate is higher if we allow a lot of infection”.

“The virus changes,” he added, “and it may be that at some point there will be another variant that challenges us more.”

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said in April that he expected the pandemic situation to be more relaxed in the summer. But he warned of possible waves and future variants in autumn.