Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide

The northermost German state of Schleswig-Holstein has managed to get the 7-day incidence under the threshold of 50 Covid infections per 100,000 residents.

Northern German state leads the way as Covid cases fall nationwide
The sun setting over the North Sea on the island of Pellworm, Schleswig-Holstein on May 10th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marcus Brandt

There’s good news all round: coronavirus cases have been falling in Germany. But one state is significantly outperforming the rest – and that’s Schleswig-Holstein, a favourite tourist destination for Germans.

On Wednesday May 12th, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that the number of reported Covid-19 infections per 100,000 residents over a period of seven days had dropped to 49 in Schleswig-Holstein – that’s under the much-coveted threshold of 50.

Once states manage to achieve a stable incidence below 50 coronavirus cases per 100,000 people, further reopening steps can take place.

READ ALSO: When (and how) will German states relax Covid restrictions?

So far, Schleswig-Holstein has opened four regions for tourists as part of a project to assess how tourism can operate safely. These areas – which include North Friesland, Büsum and the Bay of Lübeck – allow vaccinated people, those who have recovered from Covid-19 and people who test negative for coronavirus to take a holiday there.

Holidaymakers (who are not in the immune groups) need a negative coronavirus test upon arrival and have to be re-tested every 48 hours. During the project, restaurants are also allowed to open and certain leisure activities, such as hikes and city tours, are also possible.

Facilities for sports and culture, outdoor dining, as well as daycare centres and schools have long been open in Germany’s northernmost state while the 7-day incidence has been below 100.

The state, which is home to cities including Flensburg, Kiel and Lübeck, lies next to neighbouring Denmark, which has also seen encouraging coronavirus figures in recent weeks and is reopening public life.

ANALYSIS: Why are Germany’s Covid cases coming down so sharply?

What’s the situation in other states?

In eight of the 16 federal states, the incidence has now fallen below 100, signalling a very positive trend. In Berlin, for example, a 7-day incidence of 86 Covid infections per 100,000 residents was reported by the RKI on Wednesday.

Emergency brake measures, including curfews and tougher contact rules, came into force in districts and cities that had more than 100 infections per 100,000 residents within a 7-day period in April. That included most of Germany.

So when states manage to reach a stable incidence under 100, they can begin reopening with a focus on allowing outdoor activities. In this phase, restrictions such as widespread rapid coronavirus testing, also remain in force.

On Tuesday, several federal states launched plans to relax trade, tourism and outdoor dining. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania will open schools again from next week, the hospitality sector will follow on May 23rd. From June 14th, vacations in hotels and holiday apartments will also be allowed for travellers from other federal states, with restrictions. 

READ ALSO: How do you prove you’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19?

Nationwide, the RKI reported 14,909 new coronavirus cases within 24 hours and 268 deaths on Wednesday. That is 3,125 fewer positive tests than on Wednesday a week ago when 18,034 new infections were reported.

The 7-day incidence for Germany as a whole has fallen significantly to 107.8 (previous day 115.4).

So far, more than 3.5 million coronavirus cases have been registered in Germany since the start of the pandemic, and 85,380 deaths.

However, regional differences are still huge. With an incidence of 168.3, the eastern region of Thuringia is the state struggling with the highest number of cases. 

The RKI now lists 26 districts that have managed to achieve an incidence below 50. In contrast, 19 districts continue to show a 7-day incidence above 200 cases per 100,000 people.

The city of Schweinfurt in Bavaria has the highest number of cases with 286.4 Covid infections per 100,000 residents in seven days.

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Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”