High incidence could last until Easter

style="float: right; margin-bottom: 10px; font-weight: 600;"Thu 24th Mar, 2022

The current very strong Corona spread could continue until about mid-April, according to Berlin-based virologist Christian Drosten. "Currently, we are also in a high-incidence phase. And it will stay that way until Easter if there is no intervention," the scientist from the Charité hospital in Berlin told the weekly newspaper Die Zeit in an interview published Wednesday.

In preparation for the fall, he said, it must be ensured that effective medications are available for high-risk patients. Looking ahead to the summer, Drosten also said, "And you probably have to control the incidence of infection with relatively mild measures. In that regard, masks indoors continue to be one of the most effective means." Young, triple-vaccinated people, however, could move freely again and also build immunity for the community in the event of infection. Long covid is much less common in vaccinated people, he said.

For the winter, the Corona expert reckons that "very likely" tougher action will have to be taken once again. The current immunity will no longer help against transmission in the fall. In general, it will take years to build up community immunity as with influenza, Drosten affirmed. Therefore, "we will have to control the incidence for years to come with relatively mild measures in autumn and winter". Booster vaccinations in the fall, focusing on high-risk groups, could also help contain the disease. He did not specify which measures might be necessary.

Drosten had recently announced that he would be leaving the successful podcast "Das Coronavirus-Update" on NDR-Info for the time being after around two years; an episode with him and virologist Sandra Ciesek has yet to be announced. To understand this step as a sign of pandemic relief is a misunderstanding, Drosten made clear. "I confess, I was the one who said: I can't do it anymore." He said he needs time to do research and to run his institute. If major problems arise, he said, he will speak out in interviews, for example.

The nationwide seven-day incidence has again risen slightly. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) gave the value of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants and week on Wednesday morning with 1734.2. For comparison: the previous day, the value had been 1733.4. A week ago, the nationwide incidence was 1607.1. Health offices in Germany reported 283,732 new corona infections to the RKI within one day. This is according to figures reflecting the status of the RKI dashboard as of 05:00. A week ago, there were 262,593 infections.

Experts assume a high number of cases that are not recorded in the RKI data. One reason is the limited capacities of health offices, for example; contacts are often only followed up to a limited extent.

Across Germany, 329 deaths were recorded within 24 hours, according to the new data. A week ago, there were 269 deaths. The RKI counted 19,278,143 confirmed infections with Sars-CoV-2 since the start of the pandemic, but the actual total is likely to be significantly higher because many infections go undetected.

The number of Corona-infected patients per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, the RKI gave last on Tuesday with 7.08 (Monday: 7.36). This includes many people with positive Corona tests who have another primary illness.The RKI gave the number of those recovered on Wednesday as 15,121,100. The number of people who died from or with the involvement of confirmed infection with Sars-CoV-2 rose to 127,522.

To date, around 471.14 million people worldwide have been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus. That's according to a Reuters survey based on official data. More than 6.46 million people died with or from the virus, which was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The United States has the highest number of infections and deaths. India and Brazil follow in terms of infections.

According to psychologist Cornelia Betsch, the war in Ukraine is not the reason why many people currently perceive Corona as less of a threat. "At the moment, people perceive a higher risk from the war than from Corona," the Erfurt-based professor of health communication told German Press Agency. The fact that risk perceptions for Corona are falling, however, is not because the war is drawing attention away - "but because people find Corona less bad at the moment."

Betsch also referred to data from the Cosmo Study of Corona Risk Behavior, which she and colleagues have been conducting for two years. That involves surveying 1,000 randomly selected adults every few weeks about current issues surrounding the pandemic. She says it is clear that people are more likely to assume they will become infected, given the high number of cases. But they are less afraid of it, he said. "We're clearly seeing the narrative of mild prevailing." In addition, he said, the political easing debates of the past few weeks probably contributed to the perceived easing.

Because many employees are sick or isolated during the current Omicron wave, staffing levels in Baden-Württemberg's hospitals are thin. "The current situation of the hospitals is perhaps no longer as tense as, for example, in December 2021, but there can be absolutely no talk of relief," Matthias Einwag, chief executive of the Baden-Württemberg Hospital Association (BWKG), said when asked.

According to Einwag, many operations had to be postponed in recent months, in some cases several times. "Wherever possible, the hospitals are trying to treat these patients now." In this situation, the time when hospitals will be able to return to normal operations is moving into the distant future. Because of the general shortage of specialists, Einwag assumes that even in "normal times" 10 to 15 percent of bed capacities in hospitals in Baden-Württemberg are effectively unavailable. "Added to this are the staff absences due to sick leave caused by omicron infections."

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