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COVID-19

Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Christian Drosten, head of virology at Berlin’s Charite University Hospital, has warned that “a very tough winter with new shutdown measures” awaits Germany due to the rapid spread of coronavirus.

Christian Drosten, head of virology at Charite Hospital in Berlin.
Christian Drosten, head of virology at Charite Hospital in Berlin. Photo: dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

If Germany does not immediately return to tough contact restrictions at least 100,000 people will die, Drosten predicted on his NDR podcast, adding that “that is a conservative estimate”.

“We have a real emergency situation now,” he said. “We need to do something immediately.”

Drosten’s gloomy warning came as the country recorded yet another record day of cases with 39,676 new infections confirmed.

Hospitals are also slowly filling up with Covid patients again. The Charite Hospital in Berlin, one of the largest hospitals in the country, confirmed on Tuesday that it was postponing all non-critical operations.

Drosten said that the German government would need to discuss measures “that we actually hoped to have behind us”.

“We probably have to control the spread of infection again through contact restrictions – not probably, but certainly,” he added.

But he admitted that sweeping national contact restrictions could face problems in the courts.

READ ALSO: What to do if you get a red alert on Germany’s Covid warning app

Doubts over testing

“You could go for booster vaccinations instead of contact restrictions,” Drosten said. “That’s something I really believe in, too.”

However, he admitted that that would take time. In the long term, he said, the “ideal goal” must be to have “a population completely vaccinated three times over”.

He raised doubts about both 2G and 3G entry rules into venues. 3G, which allows vaccinated (geimpft), recovered (genesen) and negative tested people (getestet) to enter facilities such as restaurants, could lead to an unvaccinated person catching the virus from a vaccinated person, he said.  

Health experts say people who are unvaccinated are more likely to suffer a severe course of Covid-19 if they get it, and this group also make up the majority of patients in intensive care wards. 

Meanwhile, 2G closes the “back door” of the testing option, but it shifts contacts into the private sphere. Since vaccinated people can also pass on the pathogen, “the virus will simply come into the home,” Drosten said.

German politicians and health experts are divided on which Covid health pass entry rules are the best path for the country. 

Drosten further slammed a plan by the government-in-waiting to bring back free testing as a means of avoiding new lockdowns. “Tests are being put forward as an emergency brake to break the wave. But that won’t be enough.”

He added that the only way out of the pandemic was to “close the gaps” in vaccination by reaching people who hadn’t yet been inoculated.

SEE ALSO: Why are so many Germans reluctant to get vaccinated?

Member comments

  1. I dont see why I should be locked down again because of stupid morons that refuse to be vaccinated. It clearly needs to be mandated.

  2. Yes. The virus is here to stay. It WILL be in our homes at some point…period. Best is to get vaccinated and get us all back to living a normal life. No masks, no contacts, no vaccine passports. If you choose to not be vaccinated, that’s your problem. You may get sick and die. Tough. Isn’t time to get back to treating adults like adults Germany?

    1. The unvaccinated are already overwhelming the hospitals. You can’t lift all restrictions and say it’s not our problem. Masks shouldn’t go away for a long time, but 2G/3G is a silly debate given most places don’t even check for anything.

      1. Then its time to FORCE places to stick to the 2G rules or face closure. And I agree regarding the masks. They shouldnt be ditched anytime soon.

      2. That’s not correct. Both the unvaccinated and vaccinated are overwhelming the hospitals. It’s obvious at this point that the vaccines are not as effective as they were portrayed.
        Here’s a good example–in Tübingen, half of the Bach Choir half been infected with Covid. 100% of the members were vaccinated:

        https://www.swr.de/swraktuell/baden-wuerttemberg/bachchor-infiziert-100.html

        Furthermore, forcing extreme measures, such as 2G (and 2G plus soon, where even vaccinated and recovered have to test) will cause more infections. The reason for this is because as more places restrict access, people will find riskier environments to congregate in.

        Lastly, Sweden, one of the European countries that that did not impose restrictive measures on its population (not even masking) has one of the third lowest cases of Covid, while Ireland, one of the countries with the highest number of vaccinated and 2G) has some of the highest number of infections…

        1. 90% of those in ICUs are unvaccinated. Stop finding excuses for not doing the right thing. I dont see why i should be locked down again because of your irresponsible behaviour

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COVID-19

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.”

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