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COVID-19 STATS

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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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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