German Hospitals Near Breaking Point With Cases Still Rising


Germany’s health-care system is getting stretched to the brink, with many hospitals overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients and rising case numbers pointing to tougher days ahead.

The occupancy rate in intensive-care units rose to 88% on Wednesday, the highest in more than a year, and remained near that level on Thursday.

Some hospitals need to “significantly reduce” elective procedures and relocate stable patients to other parts of the country to cope, said Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute public health agency.

“The situation is getting dramatically worse,” Wieler said at a press conference as Germany reported 31,117 new coronavirus cases, the most since mid-January.

German Hospitals Near Breaking Point With Cases Still Rising

Only about 17% of the country’s population has received at least one Covid shot, and it could be months before a majority gets vaccinated. Meanwhile, the more transmissible virus variant that was first identified in the U.K. now accounts for about 90% of new cases, according to Wieler.

The group getting hit hardest is aged 15 to 49, although case numbers are even climbing again in people over 90 years old, Wieler said.

The situation in hospitals is particularly bad in places because there aren’t enough doctors and nurses, he said.

“I appeal once more on all decision-makers: we need a drastic reduction in contacts now,” Wieler said. Only then should policymakers figure out how to safely reopen parts of the economy, he said.

Wieler also pointed out that perhaps as many as 10% of patients will suffer months-long effects, also requiring more medical attention.

He likened the state of the pandemic in Germany to driving along a narrow, twisting mountain road with a steep cliff to one side. Driving too fast -- rather than moving along at a prudent pace -- heightens the risk of careening into the precipice, he said.

“It’s life threatening,” Wieler said. “Honestly, no emergency brake can help you anymore.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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