SHARE
COPY LINK

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

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

SHOW COMMENTS