Summer Covid wave has arrived in Germany, says Health Minister

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has urged risk groups to get a second booster vaccination against Covid-19 as the number of infections spike.

People enjoy the sunshine in Munich's English Garden. Experts are warning of a summer Covid wave.
People enjoy the sunshine in Munich's English Garden. Experts are warning of a summer Covid wave. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

“The predicted summer wave has unfortunately become reality,” Lauterbach told the Rheinische Post on Wednesday. “This also means little relief for the next few weeks.”

Lauterbach said the seasonal effect that usually sees Covid infections drop during the summer months was already fizzling out.  

One reason for this is that the circulating subtype of the Omicron variant of Covid is very transmissible. Plus, almost all Covid measures have been dropped in Germany meaning that people are mixing a lot more than other Covid years, Lauterbach said.

“I therefore strongly recommend that older people and those who have previously been ill get vaccinated again,” he said. This may not prevent an infection, but it will prevent severe courses of the illness, he added.

READ ALSO: Will Germany see a spike in Covid infections this summer?

According to the Health Ministry, 5.2 million people in Germany have received a second booster jab so far – 6.3 percent of the population.

It comes as infections are rising steeply. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the nationwide 7-day incidence on Wednesday morning was 472.4 infections per 100,000 people, almost twice as high as a week ago. 

However, the incidence does not provide a complete picture of the infection situation. Experts have believed for some time that there is a high number of cases going unrecorded in Germany.

Lauterbach also called on people in Germany to voluntarily wear masks when in indoor public spaces, even though many mandatory mask requirements have been dropped. Wearing masks indoors and getting a fourth jab are “the best antidotes” against the virus, he said on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules

Omicron subtype BA.5 spreads rapidly

The spread of the Omicron subtype BA.5 is fuelling the increase in Covid cases.

Based on the speed at which it has spread so far, BA.5 is expected to account for 40 to 50 percent of Covid infections in Germany this week, said Michael Müller, chairman of the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM).

He expects the virus to continue spreading until around mid-July and the number of infections to remain high as a result. In countries like Portugal, the subtype has already caused a new wave.

Epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs from the Akkon University of Human Sciences in Berlin said: “The BA.5 sub-variant is even more infectious than all previous variants, so it can spread even under the adverse conditions for the virus in summer.”

Moreover, according to research, BA.5 can evade the immune system even if it has already had contact with Omicron variants, Ulrichs warns.

Data does not suggest, however, that BA.5 infections cause more severe illness than other Omicron subtypes, although vulnerable groups face higher risks. 

Dirk Heinrich, chairman of the Virchowbund, which represents doctors, also called for people to get vaccinated.

“Those who have not yet been vaccinated should get vaccinated now to avoid serious illness,” Heinrich told the Rheinische Post.

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Germany has passed peak of summer Covid wave, says RKI

Germany has made it through the worst of the Covid wave that has swept through the country this summer, according to experts.

Germany has passed peak of summer Covid wave, says RKI

Covid infections are declining in all federal states and age groups, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said in its weekly report released on Thursday evening. 

Meanwhile, the nationwide 7-day incidence dropped again last week by 27 percent.

According to the weekly report, the number of people reported to have Covid, including symptoms has gone down as well as the number of doctor visits.

The RKI says that the data means that “the current peak of the wave seems to have been passed”. But experts from the public health institute say it is still too early to sound the all-clear on the pandemic. 

It comes after the German Health and Justice Ministry last week released a plan to tackle the Covid development in autumn through to spring next year. 

READ ALSO: Masks and no lockdowns – Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

Older groups particularly affected

The number of hospital admissions of people with Covid-19 decreased last week, as did the number of patients diagnosed with Covid-19 in intensive care units (ICUs), the RKI said. Outbreaks across German nursing homes have been decreasing as well. 

The RKI also says there has been a decline in deaths associated with the virus recently – with 372 Covid deaths reported last week compared to 444 the previous week.

Although this shows that Germany seems to have got through the peak of the current wave, the RKI says that people over the age of 80 continue to be the most affected by severe illness.

And despite the improved situation last week, the infection risk remains “high” in all age groups, according to the RKI – as does the burden on the health system.

Looking ahead to the next few weeks, the RKI expects a “continued high number of hospitalisations, Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care and deaths, especially in older age groups”.

For this reason the RKI says it is not sounding the all-clear and urged people to get vaccinated or boosted if they haven’t already.