Health Minister Karl Lauterbach
Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa
While Germany is again debating the mask requirement, a new mutation of the corona virus is spreading in the USA.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) views the development with concern.
»We monitor whether and how strong XBB.1.5.
in Germany," said Lauterbach via Twitter.
»Hopefully we can get through the winter before such a variant can spread to us.«
XBB.1.5 is a subvariant of Omicron that is currently spreading widely in the US.
According to Lauterbach, it has led to an increase in hospital admissions in the north-east of the country.
XBB.1.5 has been detected in 29 countries so far, including Europe.
According to Maria Van Kerkhove, head of the WHO program to combat the corona pandemic, it is the “most contagious subvariant discovered to date”.
So far, however, there are no signs that XBB.1.5 causes more severe diseases than other virus variants.
The increase in XBB.1.5 cases makes it clear how important it is to “continue to monitor Covid-19 worldwide,” said Van Kerkhove in Geneva on Wednesday.
RKI reports decline in respiratory diseases at the end of the year
Meanwhile, there is good news from Germany.
Despite concerns about a particularly large number of cases of illness before and on the Christmas holidays, the number of acute respiratory diseases fell at the end of 2022, according to the Rober Koch Institute (RKI).
However, despite the decline, the values are still above those of previous years, as stated in the weekly report of the RKI's influenza working group on Wednesday evening.
According to the report, a total of around 6.4 million acute respiratory diseases in the population in the past week are assumed - regardless of a doctor's visit.
In the week of 12.12.
this value had still been around 9 million.
"Influenza viruses continue to cause the majority of acute respiratory diseases," writes the RKI.
The persistent activity of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) also leads to doctor visits and hospital admissions, particularly in children under the age of two.
Before Christmas, the tense situation in the health system had caused concern.
In view of the high number of infections, clinics and medical practices were overloaded, and some operations that could be planned were cancelled.
Certain medicines, such as fever juices, were also in short supply.
More doctor visits than in previous years
According to the 2022 report, the number of doctor visits due to an acute respiratory disease was higher around Christmas and New Year than in previous years.
Around 1.2 million people visited a doctor between December 26, 2022 and January 1, 2023 for such a disease.
In a weekly comparison, however, this number also fell: Two weeks earlier there were still 2.3 million doctor visits.
However, the sharp decline was also regularly observed in the pre-pandemic seasons at the end of the year over the holidays.
The number of flu cases confirmed in the laboratory in accordance with the Infection Protection Act and reported to the RKI for the Christmas week was around 50,800 - in the week of New Year's Eve the number fell to around 21,200.
According to the report, more than 400 flu outbreaks with at least five cases have been reported since the beginning of October, 111 of them in kindergartens and 103 in schools.
The number of recorded influenza deaths was reported as 286 in the report.
The reported numbers are only a small part of the actual situation.
The flu wave in Germany started early this time: according to the RKI definition, in the week up to October 30th.
In the two previous winters, there were largely no waves due to the pandemic and the measures taken to counteract it.
Experts therefore feared more susceptible people in the population.