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Share of Delta coronavirus cases in Germany rises rapidly

Share of Delta coronavirus cases in Germany rises rapidly

Share of Delta coronavirus cases in Germany rises rapidly

The highly-infectious Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading in Germany. While the actually numbers are still relatively low, experts are urging caution - especially given the worrying effect the variant has had in the UK. 

Delta variant now makes up 6,2 percent of corona cases in Germany

The proportion of coronavirus cases in Germany caused by the Delta variant has increased rapidly within the space of a week, new figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) show - although the absolute number of cases still remains relatively low. 

Between May 31 and June 6, the Delta variant was detected in 6,2 percent of samples examined by the RKI. A week before, the proportion was 3,7 percent. With a share of 86 percent of the samples examined, the Alpha variant continues to cause the majority of infections in Germany, but the example of Great Britain shows just how quickly the variant can spread throughout the population, despite a well-advanced vaccination campaign. 

Situation in UK shows how quickly variant can spread

The first cases of Delta were detected in England in April, believed to have been brought over by travellers from India before the government clamped down on entry restrictions. In early May, Delta was already making up a quarter of cases. 

By mid-May, it had overtaken the Alpha variant to become the dominant mutation and now, in mid-June, it makes up 96 percent of all new cases.

Despite the fact that more than 57 percent of adults are now fully vaccinated, infections are rising among the unvaccinated and partially-vaccinated groups of the population, and the government has been forced to postpone the next step of easing restrictions. In Germany, where not even 29 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, the variant could have a similar effect.  

German scientists urge caution with reopenings

For the Dortmund immunologist Carsten Watzl, the significant increase in the proportion of Delta cases is not in of itself an indicator that Germany is standing on the brink of a fourth wave. “But we have to be careful that the incidence rates do not go up again through reckless openings,” he wrote on Twitter. 

The evidence suggests that the Delta variant is around 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha one, Watzl said. Even more concerningly, it seems to be more adept at sidestepping partial vaccine protection. “As a result, people’s antibodies are barely able to neutralise Delta variants after the first vaccination.” Only fully-vaccinated people seem to be well protected from it. 

The Delta variant should be taken seriously because it can be transferred more quickly, said physicist Dirk Brockmann from the Institute of Biology at Humboldt University Berlin, adding that the Alpha variant also started out small, but then quickly became dominant. In his opinion, that will also happen with the Delta variant. 

Waltz is calling upon the government to prepare adequately for a potential new wave of the virus in the autumn, driven by the Delta variant, especially in schools. “It can be safely assumed that the Delta variant will be the dominant variant in Germany by autumn at the latest,” he told the Augsburger Allgemeine. “If a large number of children are not vaccinated… there is a risk of big outbreaks again in schools. 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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