EXPLAINED: Where Covid infections are rising rapidly in Germany
Covid numbers throughout Germany are rising, with the states of Saarland, Bavaria and some regions of Hesse seeing particularly high numbers of infections. We look at recent stats, and explore what they mean.
What's the overall picture?
On Monday, Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported a nationwide incidence of 598.1 infections per 100,000 people within seven days - an increase of over 100 from the previous week, when the incidence was at 471.1.
According to the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), as of Sunday there were 1,468 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units throughout the country – an increase of nearly 50 percent from the previous week when 996 people were reported to be in ICUs with Covid.
But the numbers of infections and hospitalisations vary greatly throughout the country.
States like Berlin and Hamburg, for example, have currently relatively low Covid incidence rates, with 351.6 and 219.0 confirmed infections per 100,000 residents respectively.
One thing to keep in mind though, is that because rapid Covid tests are no longer free for everyone, fewer positive tests are being reported to authorities.
These are the areas which are currently being hardest hit by the autumn wave.
The Covid case volume in the southwestern state of Saarland has been far above the national average since the end of September.
On Monday, the RKI reported an incidence of 1248.5 infections per 100,000 people in seven days - more than twice as high as in Germany as a whole.
Saarland’s health minister Magnus Jung (SPD) called the rapid development of infections “worrying” and said that the situation is tense for both the healthcare system and critical infrastructure in the region. He said that the situation in hospitals was "alarming", as many planned operations were having to be cancelled or rescheduled due to staffing and occupancy issues.
As a result, the state government is currently considering all options for improving the situation - including amending the state's Covid regulations to introduce stricter measures, such as mask-wearing in public authority buildings, the health minister said.
The state health minister has appealed to people to wear masks indoors and to test themselves before attending events and before private meetings.
As far as the care of Covid patients in intensive care units is concerned, the Saarbrücken Regional Association is currently in eighth place in a nationwide comparison of counties. Here, the proportion of all Covid patients requiring intensive care is 26 percent.
The Covid autumn wave is resulting in 7-day incidences of over 1,000 infections per 100,000 people in more and more Bavarian cities and counties, and is putting a strain on hospitals. On Friday morning, the RKI reported official figures above 1,000 for nine counties and the state capital Munich.
On Monday, the 7-day incidence for the whole of Bavaria stood at 810.5 infections per 100,000 people - an increase of almost 25 percent within one week and the second-highest figure of all German states.
The increasing infection numbers are being felt in hospitals in Bavaria too. On Friday, the city of Munich reported an occupancy of 552 patients with Covid in regular, intensive care and transitional care units - a 47 percent increase from the previous week.
The central state of Hesse, where the city of Frankfurt is located, currently has the third highest 7-day incidence in the country – with 746.1 cases per 100,000.
The district of Vogelsbergkreis is currently experiencing particularly high numbers of Covid infections, and as of Monday had an incidence of 1,115.7.
As a result, three of the main hospitals in the district announced a ban on visitors to the hospital last week.
Hygiene and safety expert at the Eichhof hospital in the Vogelsbergkreis, Dr. Gerhard Holzberger, told a local newspaper: "There is no alternative to the measure, the situation is again clearly tense in all areas of life - but especially in the healthcare system."
Although the incidence in Thuringia is currently below the national average (475.8 infections per 100,000 people in seven days on Monday) the state currently has the highest number of Covid patients in intensive care in the country.
In the district of Eisenach in Thuringia, the percentage of Covid patients in intensive care is currently at 47 percent.
What do the rising numbers mean for Germany?
In its weekly report released last Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) pointed out that it’s difficult to interpret how dangerous Covid infections really are just by looking at the data.
That’s because the figures relating to Covid-positive patients in intensive care don’t make clear whether a patient is in intensive care due to a Covid infection, or if they require treatment for another illness and happen to have Covid too.
As for the increasing 7-day incidence of cases per 100,000 residents, many medical experts have said that, with 76.3 percent of the population now fully vaccinated, they expect most people to experience mild cases of Covid this autumn and winter.
The main concern related to rising Covid numbers, however, is that – as is currently the case in Saarland – rising infections will mean staff shortages in hospitals and other critical services.
People have to isolate for at least five days or a maximum of 10 days in Germany if they get a positive test result.
In an interview last week with the German Medical Journal, Christian Karagiannidis, president of the German Society for Internal Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DGIIN), said that the mood amongst hospital staff up and down the country is currently tense.
“Staffing levels are thin," he said. "If there are also severe absences due to Covid or other infectious diseases such as influenza, the atmosphere quickly deteriorates. The system is no longer resilient."