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Germany: Omicron wave breaks new weekly cases record

The new wave of coronavirus infections in Germany has now surpassed numbers last seen in November. Experts are warning of the threat this poses to the unvaccinated.

Watch video 01:49

Omicron accounts for over 70% of new cases across Germany

Germany hit a new record infection rate on Saturday, with the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases (RKI) recording 497.1 new cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days.

Saturday's incidence rate — which counts new cases recorded in the seven days leading up to yesterday — surpassed the previous peak of 485.1 reported by the RKI on November 29, 2021.

The seven-day incidence reported on Friday was 470.6. The incidence rate was at 335.9 on the previous Saturday.

The record incidence rate follows a record number of new cases recorded in a single day on Thursday — over 92,000. The infections recorded on Friday, and reported on Saturday, were down a little, to just over 78,000.

The high number of infections are down to the spread of the highly infectious omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Omicron becomes prevalent variant

Germany has so far avoided the runaway infection rates seen in neighboring countries such as France and Denmark, largely down to the introduction of restrictions in December during the previous surge in cases.

Watch video 00:25

German health minister: 'The goal is to stretch out the inevitable'

However, omicron has already become the prevalent variant in the country, as RKI president, Lothar Wieler, confirmed on Friday.

While omicron is much more transmissible than previous variants of the virus, it has been associated with milder infections, leading to lower levels of hospitalizations among those who catch it.

But experts have warned that the sheer number of infected could still prove to be a strain on the health care system, especially with so many people in Germany still unvaccinated, and thus more likely to suffer from severe symptoms.

Continued risks for the unvaccinated

The rate of hospitalizations for people infected with coronavirus reached 3.23 per 100,000 people in the past seven days on Friday, the RKI said. This number was up from 3.09 on Thursday.

Tobias Kurth, an epidemiologist at the Charite hospital in Berlin, told DW that he expects the surge in infections to put strain on health care facilities.

"I expect this number to continue to rise with incidence rates probably over a 1,000," he said, referring to the number of cases recorded over a week among a population of 100,000.

"As many people are still not vaccinated, there is still a high chance that some of them will, unfortunately, end up in the hospital. For the health care system, this is still a very alarming situation," Kurth told DW.

Head of the German intensive care association DIVI, Christian Karagiannidis, told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Saturday that it is too early to tell how stressed intensive care stations will become in Germany.

Most of those infected with omicron have been under 35, who are already less likely to suffer severe symptoms.

He added that too many people are yet to take the vaccine and pointed to the US where the unvaccinated are filling up intensive care units.

Watch video 02:26

German epidemiologist: Omicron 'pretty much cannot be stopped right now'

ab/wmr (dpa, AFP)

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