Instead of falling into the spring, the corona incidence is rising again nationwide, and the number of deaths is also increasing. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is the leader in terms of registered new infections, where the situation in the intensive care units is again becoming alarming.
Even before the Russian invasion began, many had largely dismissed the corona pandemic, now the Ukraine war is dominating the headlines, while Covid-19 seems to be unimportant. But caution is advised. Because since the beginning of March, the number of cases nationwide has not been falling, but has been increasing significantly again, especially in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. This is already noticeable there in the intensive care units, whose occupancy with corona patients is rising steeply. It is also worrying that Germany is again counting more Covid 19 victims – since the beginning of February the 7-day average has risen from 146 to 218.
How exactly the 7-day incidences develop is less and less known. It is tested less frequently and chains of infection are no longer tracked. The fact that the number of unreported cases must be very high can be seen from the sometimes extreme test positive rates. According to the RKI, it has recently jumped from 44 to 51 percent nationwide, and in Bremen it is even close to 70 percent.
Very high number of unreported cases
In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the 7-day incidence is currently the highest with almost 2,000 registered new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the test positive rate is almost 50 percent. More decisive than the incidence, however, is what happens in the hospitals, and that’s where the alarm bells are already ringing in five of the eight rural districts and urban districts in the country. Nationwide, the hospitalization incidence is 16.7; if the expected late registrations are taken into account, the adjusted value is almost 30.
That would not be a cause for concern either, since numerous cases are currently only being tested positively in the hospital and are not being admitted because of Covid-19. However, such patients also place a heavy burden on the facilities, since they have to be accommodated and cared for in isolation, which involves a great deal of personnel and logistical effort.
However, the more severe the diseases are, which is why a patient was admitted, the more dangerous a corona infection is for him. In the case of a heart attack, for example, even a “mild course” can be life-threatening. It is all the more worrying that the number of Covid 19 intensive care patients in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is also rising significantly again. On February 20, there were still 60 cases, today there are already 91. The highs of last December with over 100 corona patients could soon be reached. And from March 8th to 9th alone, the state counted twelve new Covid 19 deaths.
More infectious variant and loosening
The Greifswald bioinformatician Lars Kaderali suspects that the subtype BA.2 of the omicron variant is responsible for the increasing numbers – not only in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It is even more infectious than the original variant, the scientist who is part of the Federal Government’s Expert Council told the “Nordkurier”. In addition, there are the relaxed corona measures.
According to Kaderali, there was never a decline in the number of cases in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania like in other federal states after the first omicron wave. “As a result, the renewed increase is based on the peak of the previous wave.” This is particularly dangerous for older people, the NDR quotes the scientist as saying. In the over-80s in particular, the seven-day incidence has increased significantly compared to other age groups since the beginning of the year.
The increasing number of cases in the elderly is particularly worrying
Nationwide, the official 7-day incidence of over 80-year-olds is 535 cases, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania it has already reached almost 1000 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants according to the management report from March 9th. For 60 to 79 year olds, the value is almost 750.
The increasing number of cases among the very old could be the reason for the trend reversal in the state’s intensive care units. Most people in this age group are vaccinated there. But there is a significant proportion with insufficient protection or no protection at all, which, in the case of very high incidences, almost inevitably leads to more intensive care cases and deaths.
An omicron infection is generally less severe than the predecessor variant Delta. But especially in the risk groups, the vaccines make the decisive difference, with the third vaccination becoming more and more important with increasing age.
Too few boosters
Figures from the Arizona Health Department show how big the difference is. According to this, in January in the US state, after two vaccinations, adults had a 4.1 times lower risk of being hospitalized than unprotected over-18s. The risk of dying was 7.2 times lower. Those who were boosted had 67 times more chance of not getting seriously ill and their risk of dying was even 180 times less.
These are values for all adults; the difference could be significantly higher for very old people. The vaccination quotas in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania must be viewed all the more critically. Because there, although 88.6 percent of the over 60-year-olds are vaccinated twice, only 78 percent are boosted.
Nationwide, only just under 78 percent of the over 80-year-old population are fully vaccinated. In Saxony, only around 69 percent of this age group are boosted, in Brandenburg 71 percent. Schleswig-Holstein has the best rate at 88.5 percent, followed by Bremen (86 percent) and Berlin (82.7 percent).
Increasing intensive care cases also in Saxony-Anhalt
In Saxony-Anhalt, only 76 percent of those over 60 are vaccinated. With around 1700 new infections, it has the second highest incidence of the federal states, and there is also a trend reversal in corona intensive care patients. Their number has risen from 46 since February 24 to 71 today.
It is not yet possible to say whether this is also the case in Thuringia, which has the same number of cases as Saxony. The decline in the intensive care units has also stopped there, but since February 18 the number of Covid 19 patients in intensive care has only increased from 41 to 48.
It is striking that Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania are the three federal states with the highest average ages (48.1, 47.5 and 47.4 years). This is followed by Brandenburg (47.2). There, too, the corona intensive care cases have increased slightly from 55 on March 4th to 60 today. However, one must take into account that severe Covid 19 diseases are often treated in Berlin hospitals.
Ultimately, the situation as a whole is not yet threatening, but a combination of high incidence, low vaccination rates and an older population obviously harbors a risk that should not be underestimated and that should not be lost sight of in view of the Ukraine war.
Expect the worst, hope for the best
It should also not be forgotten that both crises could hit each other more severely in the autumn. This may include a sensitive shortage of energy, which, among other things, makes heating and thus frequent ventilation – in schools, among other things – more expensive. A recession could further exacerbate inequalities that were already causing the socially disadvantaged to suffer particularly during the pandemic. Corona, the consequences of war, rearmament and an accelerated energy transition cost huge amounts of money that will not be available for any necessary compensation payments and aid.
None of this has to happen, maybe Covid-19 will actually only come back as a stronger cold in the fall, and hopefully by then we can think about rebuilding Ukraine and returning the refugees. But it can also be different. So it’s wise to stay alert, not be too reckless, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.