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How is the Omicron wave of Covid affecting Germany?

Covid infections are rocketing in Germany, but how is the current wave affecting people, and what's the picture in hospitals?

The Corona-Warn app shows a red Covid alert.
The Corona-Warn app shows a red Covid alert. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kira Hofmann

What’s the latest?

Germany on Wednesday reported 112,323 Covid-19 infections in the latest 24 hour period  – the highest number since the pandemic began. In the same period there were 239 Covid-related deaths. 

Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said the true number of infections could be double the official figures.

The 7-day incidence was 584.4 infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday. 

READ ALSO: Germany sees more than 100,000 Covid cases in 24 hours

What about the situation in hospitals?

Initial data shows that the Omicron variant tends to cause milder illness than previous Covid variants like Delta, and therefore fewer hospital admissions. At the moment, German authorities say the vast majority of Covid patients in hospitals are unvaccinated. 

The Robert Koch Institute’s report on Wednesday said the Covid hospitalisation incidence was 3.34 per 100,000 people – a slight increase from Friday when the 7-day incidence of hospitalisations stood at 3.24 per 100,000 people. For the over 60s age group, the hospitalisation rate is 5.21 per 100,000 people.

For comparison: on November 23rd the number of Covid patients of any age in German hospitals was around 5.6 per 100,000 residents.

The DIVI intensive care register showed on Tuesday there were 2,664 Covid-19 patients in intensive care units across Germany, with 1,629 people receiving ventilation treatment. 

But medics warn it’s still too early to tell how the Omicron wave will fully impact hospitals in Germany. 

“At the moment, we cannot yet make out the Omicron wave in the intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, president of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told Germany’s RND at the weekend.

The head of the DIVI intensive care register, Christian Karagiannidis, said he doesn’t expect a rapid resurgence in the number of ICU patients.

Whereas with Delta, about one in five Covid patients who came to hospital needed intensive care, experts believe it’s about one in 10 for Omicron.

However, at the moment it is mainly younger people with lots of contacts who are getting infected in Germany. In this age group, the risk of severe illness is much lower.

“We are currently seeing a spread of Omicron in the younger age groups and not yet in the over 60s,” said Karagiannidis.

“We’ll have to wait and see when Omicron hits the over-60s and the unvaccinated.”

Authorities are also worried about too many people getting infected at the same time, causing vulnerable people to become ill and for critical infrastructure to struggle if many workers have to take sick leave.

The Our World in Data chart below shows how other European countries are also battling soaring Omicron rates.

What does this mean for Covid measures?

It’s a tricky situation for German politicians. They want to protect as many people as possible from severe illness and prevent hospitals getting overburdened. 

But if a variant is said to be less aggressive than previous variants, restrictions become harder to justify. 

Germany already has strict measures in places, including the 2G-plus rules which mean entry to many public places is only for people who are vaccinated/recovered with a booster shot or negative test. 

Meanwhile, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is pushing for a general vaccine mandate. 

Politicians will be watching to see how the Omicron variant develops over the coming weeks – and how hospitals are affected – to decide on their next move. 


When can we expect Germany to ease rules?

That is still a bit unclear. Experts are still warning that Covid can’t be left to run through the population with no restrictions. 

But the more people are immunised through vaccinations or infections, the less likely it is that the health system will be overburdened, virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit told German broadcaster Tagesschau.

Schmidt-Chanasit pointed to the declining numbers in the UK. 

“You can expect the same in this country with a little delay,” he said. Experts still expect high incidences in January and February.

“Based on the data from other countries and our measures in Germany, this wave could be over in one or two months,” said Schmidt-Chanasit. “Furthermore, there is the strong seasonality of the virus from spring onwards.”

Lauterbach said this week that the peak of the Omicron wave in Germany would probably be reached in mid-February. The time for a new discussion would be “in spring – after the end of the Omicron wave”, according to Schmidt-Chanasit.

Some politicians have already been calling for a different strategy. 

Bavaria’s state premier Markus Söder told the Münchner Merkur: “Omicron is not Delta. This means that we have to precisely adjust which rules are absolutely necessary, but also proportionate.”

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

Member comments

  1. Well with the data showing hospitalisation going down.
    Is there evidence of the 90% un-vaccinated? What is classed as unvaccinated?
    How many of the hospitalisation group are in for other ailments and just so happen to have covid?
    Can we start discussing living with the virus now? Not hiding behind our sofas and alienating portions of our society. But actually getting on.

    I think its time we admit none of these measures have done anything to stop covid its been an abject failure from the start.

      1. I think you’ve missed my point a little. There is no evidence that the restrictions have done anything. There is however evidence that restrictions appear to actually make things worse.
        We can look at England and Scotland.
        Scotland had way more restrictions than England. Scotland suffered higher cases.
        France has absolutely abhorrent restrictions. Has way higher numbers.
        England are about to remove all restrictions their numbers are going down.

        We can only conclude the evidence is overwhelming that restrictions have not worked. The fear propaganda, while immensely successful. Could have lead to extra deaths. Possibly more than covid.

        All data is available on corona virus world in numbers and our world data. If I post links my posts tend to be moderated

        1. Statistical data can be (and is) used to “prove” practically any “result”, either one way or the other.

          I didn’t miss your point, it’s as valid as any other.
          Restrictions in Germany seem to have worked quite well up to now.
          France obviously suffered from the wind blowing in the wrong direction . . .

          1. Data can be used to prove any result. I would usually agree, but from German numbers I have been unable to prove that the restrictions have worked. Possibly slowed down the first wave. But that could also have been from peoples self control.

            I am staunchly against lockdowns and restrictions if it wasn’t at all obvious. The government dictats. The fear. People recoil away if you’ve not go enough masks on. (Aparently more than one is needed?) <this happened to me today. In Berlin. It was tragic.

            I am a firm believer that we should give information out in a calm and sensible manner. Allowing people to make their own decisions on what best way to protect themselves. No stranger should ever be allowed to demand to know your health status. And to "other " people is going a very dark way.
            Vaccine mandates have been shown to actually cause more reluctance than to not have them.
            (Study carried out with an MMR mandate in the UK)

            In particular to this vaccine. We could increase uptake.
            Make the Phama companies liable.
            Release up to date data. (Not 55years from pfizer.)
            Show the contracts un redacted (maybe block the prices).
            And not vilify people who are unsure.

            Although that probably wouldn't work anymore because of the way people that have not been jabbed so far have been treated. And the way the double jabbed are being treated. Well, anyone without a booster.

  2. Well, we could bang on about this for ever and a day. I’ll continue to follow the science, from numerous sources. As it happens, I’m against following any rules that I disagree with, but needs must.

    1. That we could. But for yours and our sakes. Dont follow it blindly. The government have been non stop incorrect.

      “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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German public health authority lowers Covid risk rating

Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which advises the federal government, has downgraded Covid-19 from being a “high health risk” to a “moderate risk.”

German public health authority lowers Covid risk rating

As of this week, all of Germany’s federal states have lifted their requirement to wear FFP2 or KN95 masks on public transport, while the federal government no longer requires masks on long-distance trains.

Alongside this news, the RKI released its weekly report Thursday evening finally lowering its advisory for Covid-19 to “moderate.” It had previously considered the health risk of Covid-19 “high” – a status it had for almost the entire duration of the pandemic. 

The RKI says it could still upgrade the risk again if the Covid-19 situation in Germany worsens. It recommends that people still wear a mask indoors, ventilate their indoor spaces, and isolate at home if they get sick.

Isolation requirements remain on the books in many – but not all – federal states, even as masking requirements on public transport have lifted around the country.

The number of Covid-19 cases reported to the RKI increased by about 16 percent this weak. However, the number of severe cases requiring hospital care continues to fall.

Although mask requirements have been lifted on public transport and even in doctor’s surgeries in some states, federal regulations still require people to mask up if they visit a hospital or care home. In some cases, a negative Covid-19 test may be required to enter these facilities.

READ ALSO: What Covid rules are still in place in Germany from February?