‘Prepare for autumn and winter’: Germany’s RKI warns of Covid spike

'Prepare for autumn and winter': Germany's RKI warns of Covid spike
A fan stands outside a new vaccine centre at the the home stadium of the Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner
As the number of Covid infections rise significantly in Germany again, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) says the country must prepare for the coming months.

High vaccination coverage and protective measures – such as wearing masks until spring next year – this is what Germany’s agency for disease control says is needed in the fight against the Covid pandemic. 

Although the 7-day incidence of Covid cases in Germany is still at a relatively low level, Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Thursday there was “exponential growth”.

READ ALSO: Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated amid warnings of ‘exponential growth’ 

The incidence has been rising for more than two weeks. On Friday, the RKI reported 13.2 infections per 100,000 people within a seven-day period nationwide. On the previous day the incidence was 12.2 cases per 100,000 – and the most recent low on July 6th was 4.9.

On Friday, 2,089 Covid cases were reported within 24 hours. A week ago there were 1,456 infections within this time period.  A total of 34 Covid deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours. 

What will happen in the coming weeks?

According to the RKI’s weekly report, experts say Covid infections will continue to rise. Due to this development, the RKI made recommendations on how Germany can get ready for the colder months. 

As vaccination rates rise, Germany is in the transition phase from pandemic to endemic, the RKI says.

But they cannot predict when the transition will be completed. An endemic situation would mean that the virus would not disappear, and new infections would continue to circulate.  A pandemic is a disease that spreads rapidly around the world.

Herd immunity in the sense of complete eradication of the virus is not realistic, the RKI says.

IN NUMBERS:

Why are cases rising?

There are various reasons for the spike in the number of infections. These include people having more contacts again due to public life opening up in Germany after the shutdown. There is also more going on in places where there is a higher probability of transmission – such as indoor dining, events and travel. 

But a possible reduction in vaccine effectiveness due to waning immunity among older people and the related need for booster vaccinations may also play a role, as may the spread of new variants with higher transmissibility, the RKI says. 

According to experts, the “currently relaxed infection situation” should now be used “to prepare preventive measures for the fall and winter, so that the number of severe courses of disease, deaths, and the burden on the health care system can be kept small and population-based measures can be minimised”.

The health experts said it is important to achieve the highest possible vaccination coverage because it is currently still unclear how long the protection provided by a jab lasts.

Just over 60 percent of the German population has at least one jab, and 48.5 percent is fully vaccinated. The number of people getting a vaccine has slowed considerably in the last month as supply outweighs demand. 

Just 565,235 jabs were administered into arms on Thursday compared to the peak of 1.5 million shots given out on June 9th. 

Vaccination centres are beginning to close across Germany because they are not being used. In the state of Hesse, about 20 percent of people at vaccination centres have not shown up for appointments recently according to the state interior ministry. 

A similar proportion of people have not turned up to appointments in Berlin’s vaccination centres recently. Berlin from Friday opened up vaccination centres to everyone without appointments.

Regional authorities are moving to mobile vaccine clinics in communities in a bid to convince hesitant people or sceptics to get their jabs. 

German politicians and experts have been hammering home the importance of getting a Covid shot, saying it is the key to getting out of the pandemic and having more freedoms. 

Will Germany introduce booster jabs?

Possible booster vaccinations for the elderly and at-risk groups should also be planned and prepared, the RKI advises. The nursing and health care system – plus schools – should also prepare for possible increases in the number of infections.

According to the RKI’s evaluation, people in Germany should be informed “at an early stage that there could be a heavy burden on the healthcare system again in winter” and possibly a regional or local overload, for example in the so-called ECMO capacity (special machines for patients with severe lung failure).

Face masks until spring 

The RKI experts generally recommend that basic protective measures should be adhered to until spring, especially if people more at risk of a severe illness from Covid are present.

Masks should continue to be worn indoors, such as on public transport, people should keep their distance from others and ventilation and hygiene should be observed.  The RKI also recommends that people continue to use the Corona Warning app for contact tracing. 

The paper also says organisational measures such as allowing flexible working and keeping limits on the number of people allowed to attend events should continue to reduce the number of “infectious contacts”.

Delta taking over 

The Delta variant, which was first discovered in India, has been the dominant Covid-19 strain in Germany for some time. In a randomly selected sample for genetic analyses, its share among new Covid cases in Germany was 84 percent, the RKI said in its report. This is a further increase compared to the previous week, when the proportion of Delta cases had been around two-thirds.


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