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ANALYSIS: Where Covid rates are dropping in Germany – and why

ANALYSIS: Where Covid rates are dropping in Germany - and why
The town of Neustadt an der Weinstraße, in Rhineland-Palatinate, still has the highest infections in the country - but weekly cases are dropping in the state as a whole. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa | Ronald Wittek
The 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,00 people has fallen once again in Germany - this time significantly. What's behind this downward trend, and in which states are infections dropping the most?

As of Wednesday, the weekly incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people (‘7-day incidence’) stood at 77.9, compared to 81.1 on Tuesday and 82.7 a week prior.

Writing on Twitter, Welt data expert Olaf Gersemann pointed out that the current incidence was four percent lower than a week before – a drop not seen since July 6th, 2021.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence sinks for second day in a row

“The trend suggests that not only could the fourth wave be flattening, it could also be breaking,” he said, adding that this wouldn’t remove the possibility of there being a further rise in infection rates in autumn.

On Wednesday morning, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that 628 people had been taken to hospital with Covid-19, while 83 more people had died after contracting Covid. This is more than double number of deaths at the same time last week, when the RKI reported that 35 people had died of, or with, Covid. 

As of Tuesday, the total number of patients in intensive care bed had risen by 36 within 24 hours to 1,537. This is a significant increase from the start of August, when Germany’s intensive care register (DIVI) reported 387 patients in intensive care, with 206 of those (53 percent) receiving ventilation treatment.

During the two previous peaks of the pandemic in October 2020 and January 2021, more than 5,000 Covid patients were in intensive care units in Germany.

As summer transitions to autumn, the Federal Ministry of Health, and several state ministries, will look closely at the number of Covid hospitalisations when deciding on new measures. This is a shift away from their previous strategy of focussing largely on the 7-day incidence of infections – though infections will still play a role in influencing lawmakers. 

How do infection rates compare across the country? 

According to the RKI’s weekly report, there are significant regional differences in infection rates, with the curve flatting in some populous states that have previously seen immense swells in infections. 

In other states, meanwhile, cases are creeping up – but at a relatively slow pace. The image below shows Tuesday’s weekly incidence in local districts across Germany, with cases concentrated in metropoles like Berlin and Dresden, as well as the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: These are Germany’s current Covid hotspots

With a 7-day incidence of 114.1 per 100,000 residents, the city state of Bremen is the state with the highest incidence and the only state left with an incidence over 100.

In second place is Hesse with a 7-day incidence of 95.5, followed by North Rhine-Westphalia (94.6) and Baden-Württemberg (91.3).


Source: Robert Koch Institute

So where are Covid cases going down?

Bavaria: The incidence in Bavaria is dropping at an encouraging pace, from 85.8 on Tuesday to 81.7 on Wednesday. However, a few districts in the state continue to report some of the highest weekly incidences in the country. These are Rosenheim (199.7), Berchtesgadener Land (217.3) and Traunstein (220.3).

Hamburg: The 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 inhabitants is continuing its steady decline in the city-state of Hamburg. From Tuesday to Wednesday, it fell from 79.6 to 76.5 – marking a significant drop against the previous week’s incidence of 94.5 per 100,000 people.

Hesse: After reaching a weekly incidence of 100 cases per 100,000 residents, infections are once again falling in the central German state of Hesse. As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence stood at 95.5 per 100,000 people, compared to 100.6 the previous day. The district of Offenbach has the highest incidence in the region, with 208,6 cases per 100,000 residents registered within a week. 

Lower Saxony: The 7-day incidence of Covid infections has decreased to 68.3 people per 100,000 inhabitants in Lower Saxony. On Tuesday the 7-day incidence was 73.

Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania: In the northeastern state of Mecklenburg, where infections have remained low, the 7-day incidence is also showing a slight downward trend. On Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections was 37.8 per 100,000 people state-wide, compared to 38.7 the previous week. 

North Rhine-Westphalia: The weekly number of Covid infections has dropped once again in North Rhine-Westphalia, just a matter of weeks after the state had topped the charts as the region with the highest infection rates per 100,000 people. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the 7-day incidence was 94.6 on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the figure was 99.4, and on Monday it was 99.3. The district of Wuppertal still has the highest infections in the state, with 200.1 new cases reported per 100,000 people over the past seven days.

Source: Robert Koch Institute

Rhineland-Palatinate: The weekly incidence in Rhineland-Palatinate has sunk dramatically within 24 hours, dropping from 95 per 100,000 people on Tuesday to 86.4 on Wednesday. However, the district of Neustadt an der Weinstraße – a popular holiday destination – currently has the highest incidence in the country, with just over 243 weekly infections reported per 100,000 people.  

Saxony: The eastern state of Saxony has also seen infection rates decrease in previous days. On Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of new infections stood at 36.8 per 100,000 people, compared to  40.1 on Tuesday and 43.6 on Monday.

Schleswig-Holstein: The 7-day incidence in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein dropped to a 40.5 on Wednesday, marking almost a 10-point drop against last week’s value (49.1). 

Infection rates continue to rise slightly in a handful of other states, including Bremen, Baden-Württemburg, Brandenburg, Saarland and Thuringia. It has remained relatively stable in Berlin. 

Why might this be happening? 

The news comes as numerous states around Germany start to tighten their Covid regulations. The nationwide health pass system came into force on August 23rd, meaning that people have been required to show proof that they are vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) or have been tested (getested) in order to enter many public facilities. This system has been colloquially termed ‘3G’. 

In the meantime, however, the majority of state governments have opted to go one step further by given businesses the freedom to restrict access only to two of these ‘Gs’ – the vaccinated (geimpft) or recovered (genesen).

Economics experts have recently suggested that such a system could be far cheaper than opting for a full lockdown in autumn, while high-profile medical experts are keen to see it introduced nationwide in order to flatten the curve and encourage fence-sitters to get their jabs. 

READ ALSO: 

While these tough regulations could be having an impact on the infection rates, the move remains controversial among those who see it as “forced vaccination by the back door”. 

Is weather a factor?

Another explanation for the downward trend could be the warmer weather across Germany since the start of September, following a damp and often cool August. Studies suggest that the risk of catching Covid is far lower in well-ventilated rooms or out in the fresh air, so the more people socialising outdoors in beer gardens rather than enclosed pubs, the better.

Finally, the significant proportion of vaccinated people does seem to be having an impact. The fourth wave has been described as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated”, and evidence suggests that people without immune protection do indeed make up the majority of new cases in Germany. 

In Baden-Württemburg, for instance – the state with the third-highest infection rates – the weekly incidence of Covid cases is over 200 per 100,000 unvaccinated people, and around 18 per 100,000 vaccinated people

Equally, as Gersemann pointed out, children under the age of 15 currently make up a quarter of new cases at present: a disproportionately large number, given that this age group only make up 14 percent of the population as a whole. 

Currently, no vaccine has been approved for under-12s, meaning only a small proportion of this group  are able to get their Covid shots. On top of this, the German Vaccines Standing Commission (STIKO) has only recently issued a general recommendation for 12-17 year olds to get vaccinated, so much of this group are still playing catch-up and may not yet be fully vaccinated. 

If reports from Pfizer/BioNTech are anything to by, however, this younger segment of the German population could start to receive their (lower-dosed) jabs come October. 

READ ALSO: When will children in Germany be offered a Covid vaccine?

What does this mean for autumn?

As Gersemann points out, the decline in the infection rates is by no means a sign that Germany can escape a bad autumn – but it could mean that the country has a little extra time to get its act together to ward off another wave. 

One particularly positive sign is that the time it takes for the number of cases to double has been stretching out longer and longer, and has moved from 25 days to nine weeks in the space of a week.

With the government racing to reach at least a 75 percent threshold of people fully vaccinated in order to flatten the curve of the fourth (or fifth?) wave, or 85-90 percent in order to avoid it entirely, time is everything. 

As of Wednesday, just over two thirds (66.9 percent) of people had received one jab, while 62.4 percent counted as fully vaccinated.

If the country can manage to vaccinate a further 12.6 percent of the population – equating to around 10.5 million people – over the coming months, it could significant reduce the number of cases, and particularly the number of hospitalisations, from Covid. 

That figure could be reached within nine weeks if the rate of vaccination remains steady at around 200,000 jabs issued per day. But daily vaccinations have been dropping consistently since mid-June.

READ ALSO: Germany launches ‘vaccination week’ in bid to boost Covid jab uptake

That means that the pressure is on for the state’s big push to reach the undecided over the coming weeks – with mobile vaccinations, advertising campaigns and pop-up vaccination clinics everywhere from kebab shops to gyms – to work. If it has will start to become clear in the coming days. 


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