Berlin (dpa) – The corona pandemic in Germany threatens to get going again. According to data from Thursday, health authorities reported 14,356 infections to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) within a day. Higher daily values were last recorded at the end of January.
In addition, the more contagious and probably more deadly Corona variant B.1.1.7 has gained the upper hand in this country, with the RKI estimating the proportion, which has been growing for weeks, at around 55 percent. Exactly a week ago, the RKI registered 11,912 new infections and 359 new deaths within one day.
“We have clear signs of this: the third wave has already begun in Germany,” said RKI president Lothar Wieler in an interview with the United Nations Journalists’ Association (ACANU) in Geneva. “I am very concerned.” Protective measures such as wearing masks are still urgently needed despite vaccinations.
The number of new infections reported within seven days per 100,000 population (seven-day incidence) increased to 69.1 compared to the day before (65.4). The number of new infections decreased significantly for weeks nationwide in January and February. However, since mid-February, the RKI has seen the incidence of seven days and the number of cases is increasing again. The decline in the number of Covid 19 patients has stopped in intensive care units. A further 321 deaths were recorded within 24 hours.
A UK study recently provided further evidence that variant B.1.1.7 is significantly more deadly than the original coronavirus. The researchers found a 64 percent higher risk compared to other corona variants. However, the absolute risk of death in the studied group was still low. In the first variant this is 2.5 and for B.1.1.7 4.1 per 1000 infected persons, the researchers report in the British Medical Journal. The team led by Robert Challen of the University of Exeter had analyzed the deaths of nearly 110,000 infected people over the age of 30 who had come to corona testing centers.
RKI boss Wieler sees a race between the vaccination campaign and the mutating virus. The finish is in sight. For the first time on Thursday, more than a quarter of a million corona vaccinations per day were recorded in RKI data, with 257,671 for Wednesday.
But the race is not over yet: Germany is entering the third wave with relatively high incidences among the younger, mobile and working population, making the fight against the virus more difficult, the RKI boss explained in an online lecture. The starting level for the second wave was therefore significantly lower. For example, in the case of 20-24 year olds, only 11 cases per 100,000 inhabitants were registered within a week at the beginning of August; according to the latest information, there are 95 – more than in all other age groups. However, the RKI has seen a continuous increase in all groups under the age of 55 for several weeks now.
According to the institute’s situation report, it is often not possible to determine specifically in which environment people are infected. In particular, outbreaks occur in retirement and nursing homes, hospitals, but also in private households, the professional environment and other areas of life. More than two weeks ago, on February 22, additional primary schools and day-care centers were opened in a number of states, some with so-called alternating operations.
From the point of view of the epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb of the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Bremen, several factors come together. He refers to the now very high proportion of the more contagious variant. In addition, it has not yet been possible to reduce the numbers so strongly that a really tight, fast and effective control works, for example by isolating or quarantining infected people and informing all contacts. Moreover: “We are in a relaxed mood and of course we are already taking the first concrete measures to mitigate it.”
According to Zeeb, increased speed and self-testing can also play a role. If the result is positive, it should be checked with a laboratory test. Only after confirmation are cases included in the RKI statistics. However, in the data available so far, there is not yet a very strong increase in weekly PCR tests: according to the RKI report it was 1.13 million in the last calendar week, after 1.17, 1.09 and 1.05 in the weeks before. The proportion of positive PCR tests has been between 6.1 and 6.4 percent for about a month; last week it was 6.2.
The RKI has counted 2,532,947 detected corona infections in Germany since the start of the pandemic. The actual total number is likely to be significantly higher as many infections go undetected. The RKI put the number recovered at about 2,337,000. The total number of people who died with or with proven infection with Sars-CoV-2 rose to 72,810.
The national seven-day R-value was according to the RKI situation report on Thursday evening 1.04 (previous day 0.96). This means that 100 infected people infect 104 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it stays below 1 for a longer period of time, the infection process decreases; if it is consistently higher, the number of cases increases.