For members


Will Germany’s Covid infections ease up in time for Easter?

With high Covid infection numbers and restrictions being rolled back across Germany, the outlook for Easter looks uncertain. Here are the latest predictions from the experts.

Will Germany's Covid infections ease up in time for Easter?
Easter chocolates in the shape of a rooster and a rabbit with a mask on display in the confectionery shop of Julian Orlowski and Kazimierz Rak in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/PAP | Darek Delmanowicz

Over the last few months, the spring has often been cited as the time when the Covid situation in Germany would start to ease up again and, on the basis of this prognosis, measures to roll back nationwide restrictions came into force on March 20th – albeit amidst wide-spread criticism from state leaders and scientists. 

But on March 24th, Covid infections within 24-hours reached a record high of over 300,000 and 7-day incidences continue to be in the thousands for all federal states, suggesting that the outlook for spring is not as positive as previously hoped for. 

READ ALSO: Germany sees more than 300,000 Covid infections in 24 hours

What are the prospects for Easter currently looking like?

On Monday, German news site Focus Online published an interview with Statistician Christian Hesse, who forecast a continuation of the upward trend in incidences in the coming weeks as the new Omicron variant BA.2 continues to spread amid lesser restrictions. 

The spread of the Omicron sub-variant “is accompanied by a changed and less cautious contact behaviour of parts of the population,” explains Hesse. “This could be due to the fact that fear of Covid has been somewhat eclipsed by fears of war.”

Even if the majority of the population continues to behave cautiously, “that is not enough, because the majority of new infections are caused by a minority of frequenters and super-spreaders,” he says.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister defends lifting of Covid measures

As a result, Hesse expects Covid infection numbers to continue to rise in the next few weeks leading up to Easter. This view is also shared by the head of Charité hospital in Berlin, Christian Drosten, who told die Zeit last week: “Currently we are also in a high incidence phase. And it will stay that way until Easter if we don’t intervene.”

Why are the infection numbers increasing so much?

According to Hesse, the Omicron variant BA.2 is largely responsible for high infection numbers: “According to a Japanese study, the Omicron subtype BA.2, which is now dominant in our country, is 1.4 times more infectious than the main Omicron line BA.1 under otherwise identical conditions.”

Added to this new, more contagious variant, is the fact that many restrictions have been rolled back since March 20th. However, most federal states still have a transitional period in place and are able to introduce tighter restrictions if the situation worsens considerably in their states. 

READ ALSO: Germany logs 1.5 million weekly Covid infections as Omicron subtype spreads

The exact parameters of the so-called ‘hotspot regulation’ are due to be thrashed out by the state health ministers in a conference on Monday, which may see the threshold for putting tougher restrictions in place lowered to halt rising infection numbers. 

Some good news

Despite the fact that the chances of catching Covid are higher than ever before, there are also some positive trends.

The hospitalisation rate is now 25 percent lower than during the winter wave in January 2021, and the ICU occupancy rate is less than half as much as during the peak of the Delta wave in mid-December 2021.

The number of patients requiring artificial ventilation has dropped to 38 percent, which, according to Hesse, is an indicator that the Omicron BA.2 variant causes much milder courses than Delta.

The risk of death with symptomatic Omicron infection has also decreased slightly, to 0.09 percent.

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For members


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.