Pandemic situation in autumn 2022
Germany has more covid deaths than last year
From Martin Morcinek
Where is Germany before the start of the third pandemic winter? Corona protective measures have been largely lifted, the public longs for normality. However, the bare numbers speak a completely different language.
In the fight against the coronavirus, Germany is walking a difficult course between restrictions and openings. “Learn to live with the virus” is the motto of the advocates of relaxation as much as possible. Unlike previous years, the growing number of cases no longer led to the threat of hospital overload. According to them, the danger to the public health system is largely averted.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), on the other hand, is sounding much more cautious for fall 2022. With regard to the “operational situation in healthcare” at the beginning of the winter semester, only “stabilization” is talked about. The RKI summarizes the situation as the number of serious Covid cases has not increased further recently. However, experts see no reason for it to sound completely clear. “Despite the currently stable number of cases, the infection pressure in the general population remains high in all age groups,” says the RKI’s current weekly report.
A casual comparison of the current number of cases with the situation in autumn 2021 and 2020 actually raises serious questions. The number of newly infected officially reported last week significantly exceeds the level of the previous year. In the seven days to Sunday, September 18, 2022, state authorities in Germany recorded a total of 233,940 cases of the coronavirus. This is three and a half times more officially known infections than in the 37th calendar week of last year. This lasted until September 19, 2021. During this period, only 62,682 new cases were recorded. At this point in the first year of the pandemic, there were only 12,338 new infections.
The bare numbers provide only the first indication of the pandemic situation. Information cannot be compared directly and without limitation. At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, for example, the general public had significantly fewer options for PCR tests than in autumn 2021. In addition, the summer wave was significantly weaker last year than in the current year. However, not all positive rapid tests lead to reliable detection in the laboratory. A: According to all the knowledge available so far, the risk of getting seriously ill from Covid or even dying is much lower for those vaccinated and immunized under omicron conditions than in autumn 2020.
But what if significantly more people become infected? In any case, the coronavirus pandemic is not over yet, as shown by a look at the number of reported covid deaths in a year-on-year comparison. In the current weekly balance for calendar week 37, the number of people registered within seven days who died in connection with the coronavirus infection rose to 641. On average, 84 deaths per day were reported in Germany over the past four weeks.
For comparison: In autumn 2021, the federal state authorities had to include 351 deaths in the death statistics in the comparison week. In the previous year, there were only 41 deaths nationally in the corresponding week – albeit after a comparably low infection summer. There were certainly periods during the peaks of previous winter waves when the number of reported deaths was much higher. But one way or another: Currently, significantly more Covid patients are dying per week than in the fall of the previous two years.
The situation before the Corona winter wave
What insights can be derived from this crude approach to classifying the overall situation? First: nothing much. The current provisional status refers to the comparative weeks in which Germany experienced temporary respites between stronger waves of infection in the dark winter months of 2020/21 and 2021/22. How Germany will fare in the next autumn or winter wave remains to be seen.
The given numbers are therefore only suitable as initial indications for comparing the current pandemic situation with the situation in previous years. One thing is certain: a return to normality is out of the question given the high number of reported deaths. Apparently, the virus and the course of the infection are still anything but harmless.
Are these findings sufficient to reassess Germany’s pandemic policy? The much-vaunted protection of risk groups, including all elderly people in Germany, under the conditions of a smoldering infectious process – as measured by the number of deaths – seems to be working no better than in 2021. The level of vaccination of the population and the progress made in the treatment of patients with covid, were clearly not enough to reduce the number of covid deaths below the level of previous years.