In the middle of its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany is seeing a rising number of cases as hospitals reach an alarming state.
The seven-day rise of new infections in Germany has reached the highest level since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. According to information provided by the public research Robert Koch Institute (RKI), there are 201 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. To calculate the seven-day incidence, the recent infections of the last seven days are added together and converted to 100,000 inhabitants.
The previous record of cases was reached at the peak of the second coronavirus wave on December 22, 2020, with 197.6 per 100,000 residents. Unlike a year ago, now many people are vaccinated, and the rate of infection is increasing mainly among the elderly who are at particular risk. Experts, therefore, assume that the German healthcare system can now withstand more new infections than before.
Vaccinations efficiently protect against severe courses of the disease while decreasing the need for hospitalization. In all new COVID-19 cases observed, the numbers of unvaccinated individuals are significantly higher than those who are fully vaccinated.
The rising numbers of infections are also part of discussions regarding the upcoming German government. After the election in September, no government has come together so far. A possible coalition of Social Democrats, liberals and Greens presented a strategy on Monday to combat the future of pandemic management in Germany.
According to a report by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the possible coalition has said it wants to reintroduce free corona tests for all citizens of Germany. The country ended the offer for free tests for all as of October 11.
“We require good, joint solutions,” said Green Party parliamentary group leader Katrin Goering-Eckardt in Berlin.
Goering-Eckardt also called for efforts to get more people in Germany vaccinated. To this end, additional possibilities must be created to be able to administer the vaccines. The high rate of cases was primarily caused by people who deliberately and actively chose not to get vaccinated. Some of them could be convinced to get vaccinated when it came to 2-G schemes, a system that only allows vaccinated and recovered people to enter public venues.
In addition, more pressure will be brought to bear on booster vaccinations. Physicians are to be obliged to actively inform older patients about the third shot.
So far, the third jab has been controversially discussed by officials and public figures as a means of fighting the fourth wave in Germany. A few days ago, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn advocated offering every citizen a booster vaccination. Hendrik Streek, director of the Institute for Virology and HIV Research at the Medical Faculty of the University of Bonn, expressed doubts.
“The hope for the booster as a solution against the fourth wave could prove to be deceptive,” Streeck told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland.
According to Streeck, the booster shot can reduce the proportion of vaccination breakthroughs, as studies from Israel have shown.
“My concern, however, is that the third shot was not responsible for the breakthrough of the third wave in Israel,” Streek said. He pointed to the sharp increase in the number of cases in Israel in December 2020 and January 2021 despite the high vaccination rate. “I’m afraid that this is happening again now and that it was not the booster but some as yet unknown factor that broke the wave in Israel.”
The Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, will discuss a new Infection Protection Act in its first reading on Thursday. The aim is to decide how Germany will deal with keeping infection and hospitalization rates under control during the upcoming winter. On November 25, the special status of the epidemic situation of national scope will expire.
The writer is a fellow with the Ernst Cramer & Teddy Kollek/Middle East Fellowships.