Merkel sounds alarm at Covid resurgence in Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel sounded the alarm on Saturday over the return of a "certain recklessness" as Covid-19 infection and death rates climb in Germany.

Side profile of Angela Merkel in a protective face mask with the Berlin TV tower in the background.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's comments come as the seven-day Covid-19 incidence rate crosses 145 infections per 100,000 people. John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Increasing numbers of hospitals’ admissions with coronavirus “worry me a lot”, Merkel told Sunday’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

“It should worry all of us,” she added, noting “again a certain recklessness” in Germany.

She defended the right not to be vaccinated but admitted at being “very saddened” that as many as three million Germans aged over 60 have still not had the jab.

“It could make a difference, for these people and the whole of society,” said Merkel, who steps down soon after 16 years in office.

Infections took off with the arrival of autumn and on Saturday the Robert Koch health institute (RKI) reported 21,543 new cases and 90 deaths over the previous 24 hours.

The Robert Koch Institute’s Covid-19 dashboard shows the number of cases by age group and gender (bar chart) and the number of cases per day according to the date of illness (blue) or reporting (yellow) (bottom chart).

Germany’s seven-day coronavirus incidence rate crossed 145 infections per 100,000 people on Saturday, after hitting 100 a week before for the first time since May.

The vaccination campaign is marking time with RKI counting 55.5 million Germans fully vaccinated against Covid, or 66.7 percent of the 83 million population.

Our World in Data puts the percentage of people fully vaccinated in Germany slightly lower at 66.1 percent, with the below chart showing the extent to which Germany is lagging behind many of its European neighbours

Health professionals have reported a new influx of infected people into hospital, mostly unvaccinated.

The president of the German society of hospitals Gerald Gass said the number of Covid patients entering hospital had jumped 40 percent in a week.

Intensive care wards had 15 percent more cases.

READ ALSO: Covid cases in Germany ‘significantly higher’ than last autumn, says RKI
READ ALSO: German hospitals see sharp increase in Covid-19 patients

“If this continues, we will soon have 3,000 patients in intensive care,” he told reporters. And that would lead to restrictions on the normal functioning of hospitals, such as delays for operations.

Data from the DIVI (German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine) and reproduced as a chart by Welt newspaper showed that the seven-day average of free intensive care beds had fallen further, to 2,762, the lowest level since the pandemic started.

In a Forsa survey carried out for the health ministry and published Thursday, 65 percent of unvaccinated respondents declared there was “no way” they would take a Covid jab and 23 percent were “reluctant”.

Some 89 percent said the risk of intensive care wards being overwhelmed had no influence over their readiness to be vaccinated.

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Germany’s weekly Covid infection rate rises above 500

Germany recorded a weekly Covid incidence of more than 500 per 100,000 people on Monday as health experts warn that the fifth wave of the pandemic has only just begun.

Bar in Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, which has the highest incidence in the country.
People sit outside bars in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where incidences are currently the highest in the country. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

On Monday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 528, up from 515 the day before and 376 a week ago. 

Infections have been rising rapidly as the highly transmissible Omicron variant tightens its hold in Germany. Monday marked the fourth day in a row in which the country posted record incidences.

Since the first incidence of the variant was discovered in the country around seven weeks ago, Omicron has swiftly taken over as the dominant variant in Germany.

It currently accounts for around 73 percent of Covid infections and is expected to almost entirely replace the Delta variant this week. 

Though Omicron generally causes a less severe illness than Delta, experts are concerned that deaths and hospitalisations could remain high due to the unprecedented number of cases Germany could see.

Unlike Delta, Omicron has a large number of mutations that allow it to evade previously built up immunity through vaccinations and illness. 

The World Health Organisation has warned that half of all Europeans could be infected with the virus by spring. 

“After the temporary decline in case numbers, severe disease courses and deaths towards the end of 2021 in the fourth wave, the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic has begun in Germany with the dominant circulation of the omicron variant,” the Robert Koch Institute wrote in its weekly report on Thursday.  

Since the first Omicron case was discovered in Germany, there have been 191,422 suspected or proven cases of the variant.

As Welt data journalist Olaf Gersemann pointed out in Twitter, the number of Omicron cases has increased sixfold within a fortnight. 

Increase in hospitalisations

Before this weekend, Germany had hit its previous peak of infections back in November, when the country posted a 7-day incidence of 485 per 100,000 people at during the peak of the fourth wave.

Since then, Covid measures such contact restrictions and blanket 2G (entry only for the vaccinated and recovered) or 2G-plus (vaccinated or recovered with a negative test) have been relatively effective at turning the tide. 


For the past few weeks however, infections have been on the up once again as the Omicron fifth wave begins.

The incidence of hospitalisations in the country appears to also be on the rise again after a few weeks of decline. On Friday, the 7-day incidence of hospitalisations stood at 3.24 per 100,000 people, up from 3.13 the day before.

Over the weekend, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach warned that Omicron could place additional pressure on the general hospital wards as fewer people end up in intensive care. 

“Depending on how things develop, we may face shortages not only in the intensive care units, but also in the normal wards. There is a threat of entire departments being closed,” he said.

“Rapid spread of the virus would mean hundreds of thousands will become seriously ill and we will have to mourn many thousands of deaths again.” 

Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at a weekly press conference on Friday, January 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Northern states post record incidences

Since the start of the Omicron wave, northern Germany has been disproportionately affected by the virus.

As of Monday, the city-state of Bremen had the highest incidence in the country, with 1389 new cases per 100,000 people recorded in a week.

This was followed by Berlin, which currently has a 7-day incidence of 948, and Hamburg, which recorded a 7-day incidence of 806. The district with the highest incidence in Berlin Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, which posted a weekly incidence of 1597 on Monday. 

In contrast to the fourth wave, the lowest Covid incidences were recorded in the eastern states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt and Saxony. 

On Monday, Thuringia had a weekly incidence of 198 per 100,000 people, while Saxony’s incidence was 249 and Saxony-Anhalt’s was 280.

Somewhat inexplicably, the incidence has been declining in Thuringia in recent weeks, though there is speculation that this could be to do with the fact that Omicron has not yet spread in the state.

Nine of the sixteen German states have incidences of more than 500 per 100,000 people.