Germany faces “national emergency” from covid-19 – DW – 11/20/2021

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn said the covid-19 situation had worsened over the past week and is now even “more serious than last week”, warning that the country faces “a national emergency” in relation to the pandemic .

Asked about the possibility of the government imposing a new lockdown on the entire population, he replied: “We are in a situation where we cannot rule out anything.”

The statements this Friday (11/19) come on the day the upper house of the German Parliament, the Bundesrat, approved a new package against the pandemic drafted by the likely future coalition government, the day after the lower house gave birth green to the rules.

The law includes measures such as the mandatory presentation of a vaccination certificate or a negative test at work and in public transport, as well as the express recommendation for the practice of home office, whenever possible.

Spahn was speaking at a press conference with Lothar Wieler, head of the government’s disease control and prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Wieler also painted a dramatic picture of the covid-19 situation, pointing out that more than a quarter of the country’s districts have an incidence rate greater than 500 new infections per 100,000 population in the past seven days, and that many hospitals are on the brink of collapse. “We need to turn the tide. We really don’t have time to waste.”

The head of the RKI also highlighted the importance of vaccination, at a time when Germany has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. “Vaccinations are working really, really well,” he said. “We need to close the vaccination gaps now.”

What is the status of covid-19 in Germany?

In the last two weeks, the number of new cases has increased by more than 60% in Germany.

This Friday, the country registered 52,970 new infections in 24 hours, a day after registering more than 65,000 cases daily, a record since the beginning of the pandemic. Health officials warn that this number is expected to at least double in the coming days.

Uwe Janssens, general secretary of the German Society for Intensive Care, told DW the figures were “absolutely worrying”. He noted that infected patients who become seriously ill end up in the intensive care unit (ICU) much later, “with a delay of up to 15 days.”

“Currently, about 0.8% of infected people will have to be treated in an intensive care unit during the course of an infection,” Janssens said. And if there are 50,000 to 60,000 new cases every day, “you can count how many people will arrive in ICUs in 7, 10 or 12 days.” The situation is becoming “very difficult to deal with”, he warned.

What are the new rules?

Under the new rules, the so-called incidence of hospitalizations will be the new reference for the introduction of stricter regulations against covid-19 in the country.

According to this metric, if more than three people per 100,000 population in a region are hospitalized with the disease, the 2G rule – which allows freedoms such as access to restaurants and hotels only for those who are vaccinated or recovered from covid-19 – will be applied to all public leisure activities.

If the hospitalization rate reaches six per 100,000 population, then the 2G+ rule will be adopted, when even vaccinated and recovered people will be required to additionally test negative for the coronavirus. With a rate of nine hospitalizations, stricter measures, such as contact restrictions, will take effect.

At the moment, all German states with the exception of Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland have an admission rate greater than three. The index in Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt is above nine.

What else was agreed?

The plans also include mandatory daily testing for employees and visitors to nursing homes, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or not.

They also include the 3G rule – which requires the presentation of proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test – for workplaces and public transport.

Rapid antigen tests are also free again. And the express recommendation for the practice of home office, whenever possible, will be reinstated. Nurses, especially those working in intensive care units, will receive a bonus.

Germany’s 16 states will still be able to maintain and introduce protective measures. This includes restricting or prohibiting recreational, cultural and sporting events, prohibiting entry to health care facilities and the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places, as well as closing universities.

The measures, which are expected to take effect as early as next week, do not include closing schools, general travel restrictions or mandatory vaccinations.

A new lockdown in sight?

For German Green Party lawmaker Paula Piechotta, MD, the country should only introduce a general lockdown as a “measure of last resort.” However, Germany is already very close to that stage, she said in an interview with DW. “If too many lawmakers and decision makers don’t act, a blanket blockade will be needed.”

Piechotta also warned of low levels of confidence in vaccines in Germany and Europe.

“If we do not manage to reach sufficient vaccination rates in a non-mandatory way, we will have to talk about the mandatory nature of the vaccine, especially for those who work in vulnerable environments, such as nursing homes and hospitals,” said the parliamentarian. For her, making vaccination compulsory would be less disruptive than imposing another general lockdown.

Bet on booster doses

Meanwhile, the Permanent Commission on Vaccination of Germany (Stiko) on Thursday recommended the application of booster doses for the entire population over 18 years. The injection should be given six months after the last vaccine application, but the interval can be reduced to five months if there is sufficient capacity.

The committee recommends that booster vaccines be prioritized for immunosuppressed people, seniors over 70, residents and employees of nursing homes, and professionals working in health care facilities.

Regardless of which immunizer was previously administered, mRNA vaccines – such as those from Pfizer and Moderna – should be given as booster doses. Pregnant women after the second trimester should also receive booster injections.

Germany’s vaccination rate has stagnated at less than 70% of the population in recent weeks, a relatively low number compared to other Western European countries.

“We have to intensify as much as possible the vaccinations, but above all, the reinforcement of vaccination”, said Janssens, of the German Society for Intensive Intensive Care.

ek (DW, AP, AFP, Reuters, DPA)