After weeks of decline, the Robert Koch Institute reported increasing case numbers for the first time on Saturday. But why is that? And where exactly are more infections taking place again?
For weeks, things looked good for fighting pandemics in Germany: the number of corona cases had been falling since mid-December. Hairdressers look forward to easing the situation soon. In some countries, students should gradually return to face-to-face teaching – at least that’s the plan.
But the preparations for the gradual opening could prove to be premature. Because the negative growth has not only slowed this week – in parts of the country there is even a significant increase in the daily number of cases. On a nationwide average, the pandemic appears to be persisting at a high level.
The trend reversal is not a regionally limited phenomenon, but can be observed across the whole of Germany.
At the federal state level, too, it is noticeable that the seven-day incidence is currently stagnating in most countries – and that just above the 50 threshold. Only Baden-Wuerttemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Schleswig-Holstein have managed to fall below the first important limit on the way out of lockdown. But whether they can continue on this path remains questionable.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, the trend is already pointing upwards. And in Schleswig-Holstein there is great concern due to several massive outbreaks with the more contagious corona mutation from Great Britain (B.1.1.7).
The Thuringian state government has already pulled the emergency brake and canceled its school openings scheduled for Monday.
The graphic below gives hope: According to this, almost half of all German rural districts (195 of 412) have fought their way to a seven-day incidence of 50 or lower. But the current developments also make it clear that politics and the population cannot rest on these achievements.
The re can be no talk of a stable situation yet.
Risk of contagious mutations
But why was the positive trend broken at all? After all, nothing has changed in the lockdown situation so far. One possible explanation is that the discussions about the upcoming easing could have already led to a change in behavior in the population. In addition, there is a certain corona fatigue and the hope that the vaccines will save them. People may become more careless and have more contacts again.
The se are more contagious than the wild type that has been widespread to date and drive the R value up even under the strict measures in force. This article explains the background.
According to an estimate by the RKI, the mutations already account for a good 22 percent of all new cases. In some regions such as Cologne and Flensburg it could be significantly more. Since the mutations are spreading exponentially, they will soon cause the majority of cases of infection and significantly fuel the pandemic, experts warn. Measures may even have to be tightened if the number of cases does not decrease further.
But even if one estimates the influence of the mutations to be low, the current case numbers are unpleasant. If the development of the current week is maintained, the incidence targets of 50 or 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days are a long way off.
The lockdown then has to be extended again – or there is a risk of massive infections, which inevitably lead to a renewed increase in severe courses, to fully running intensive care units and many deaths. Countries that still stick to opening plans in this situation will find it difficult to reverse the trend again.