“Every day counts in this difficult situation”

COVID-19 pandemic “Every day counts in this difficult situation”

In view of the high and rising number of new infections, and given the fact that hospitals are already seriously stretched, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), and Steffen Weber-Carstens, specialist in intensive care medicine at Berliner Charité Hospital, have called for decisive action.

The photo shows Jens Spahn and Lothar Wieler.

Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn and Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute 

Photo: Michael Sohn/AFP/Getty Images

“The situation is serious. The number of infections is too high and is still rising,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn on Thursday. 90 per cent of positive COVID-19 tests are now caused by the B.1.1.7 variant. Most of the new cases are being seen in people between the ages of 15 and 49, although the number of cases affecting people over the age of 90 are also rising again. The numbers of deaths have stagnated in recent weeks, but they are not declining.

Testing and vaccinating alone are not enough to break the third wave. “We need to get the numbers down. It is naïve to think that we can test the virus away. That is not going to work,” said RKI President Lothar Wieler. For this reason, Lothar Wieler and Jens Spahn called on the Bundesländer (federal states) to act now.

Critical situation in hospitals and intensive care units

Almost 5,000 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, and doctors expect their numbers to rise to as many as 6,000 by the end of the month. 6 out of every 10 patients receiving hospital treatment for respiratory diseases are COVID-19 patients. “We can already see that our health system will reach the limits of its capacity if we cannot stop this trend,” said Jens Spahn.

Steffen Weber-Carstens, specialist in intensive care medicine at Berliner Charité Hospital, where he is coordinator for the care of COVID-19 patients, also warned about overstretching the health system. “In some parts of the country only 10 per cent of beds are still free,” he said. Many hospitals are already postponing elective surgery. “We now need to get the dynamics of the pandemic under control. Otherwise we will no longer be able to provide appropriate care in intensive care units,” he explained.

Vaccination campaign gathers momentum

It is good to see that almost 17 per cent of people in Germany have been vaccinated at least once – but the majority of the population have not yet been vaccinated at all. According to the figures of the Federal Ministry of Health, 45,000 doctors’ practices received vaccine doses this week, and 50,000 have already ordered vaccine for next week. The level of demand for AstraZeneca und BioNTech vaccines is comparable. The speed of vaccination will increase over this quarter.

“We must get the incidence down”

The aim is to reduce the incidence. The higher the incidence, the greater the risk of becoming infected. Children can become infected just like adults, stressed RKI President Lothar Wieler. The risk in enclosed rooms is significantly higher. He added, “I know that many people have been helping fight the pandemic for a long time under difficult conditions day in, day out, by reducing their contacts, distancing, complying with hygiene regulations, wearing masks and of course, wherever possible airing rooms – and above all getting vaccinated and taking regular tests at work. I can only thank everyone for this.”