The predominance of the BA.4 and BA.5 coronavirus variants as well as the end of all protective measures against COVID-19 have led to a rapid increase in the number of infections. The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s central agency for infectious diseases, reported 135,402 new coronavirus infections on Thursday, and on Tuesday there were up to 147,489. The 7-day incidence rose to more 690 infections per 100,000 population, down from 650 on Monday.
These figures do not even reflect the true extent of the disaster. The abolition of free testing, the removal of mandatory testing for certain activities and the dramatic reduction in testing options mean that only a portion of total infections are recorded. Every day, 100 to 200 people die from COVID-19. Officially, there have already been 142,000 coronavirus deaths in Germany.
As a result of the murderous policy of mass infection, hospitals, out of breath for two and a half years, are again on the verge of bankruptcy. On Monday, according to the daily report from the intensive care register of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), the number of coronavirus patients in intensive care exceeded 1,000. acts the highest number of patients since mid-May.
The scientific director of the DIVI, Christian Karagiannidis, warned that the occupancy rate of hospital beds for the summer season was relatively high. The number of available beds will continue to decline due to staff shortages, he added. It is not just the increasing number of hospital admissions that is pushing the entire health care system to its limits. More and more employees are infected and are therefore absent from the workplace.
The managing director of the German Hospital Society (DKG), Gerald Gaß, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND): “We receive reports from all federal states that individual wards and departments have to be closed due to a lack of staff. Sometimes even emergency room admissions are affected.
“We are seeing bottlenecks in hospitals, especially in Schleswig-Holstein with its particularly high infection rates,” said Susanne Johna, president of the Marburger Bund doctors’ union, in a statement. Handelsblatt. “The health system is reaching its limits in places. In the third year of the pandemic, it is a real disaster.
Looking ahead to the next fall wave, Johna explained: “Then we will not only be dealing with coronavirus, but probably also an aggressive flu wave. This combination of coronavirus and flu waves would be a real problem, because the health system would then have to deal with two large-scale serious diseases.
Entire departments of major hospitals are already paralyzed. The Schleswig-Holstein University Hospital (UKSH) had to close several departments at its sites in Kiel and Lübeck due to a lack of staff. On July 1, 479 employees were in isolation, a number that rose to more than 600 by July 8.
The long-standing staff shortage is also having a major impact in other federal states. The situation in Saxony’s hospitals is also extremely precarious due to coronavirus cases in the workforce and the general lack of nursing staff. “The economic situation and the lack of personnel make the situation more difficult,” said the deputy director general of the Saxon Hospital Association, Friedrich R. München. He stressed that “future service restrictions” cannot be ruled out.
The supply of care has already deteriorated compared to the period preceding the pandemic. At the St. Georg Clinic in Leipzig, around a quarter fewer beds are currently in use. This is due to understaffing and absences related to COVID-19.
According to a hospital spokeswoman, more nurses than ever have decided to leave the healthcare system in the past two years. Only “the dedicated commitment of our employees” has so far prevented the closure of entire departments, she said.
According to the company, only five of 11 operating theaters were in use at the Asklepios Klinik Nord Heidberg in Hamburg last week. All areas of the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) are also affected by the staff shortage. “About 250 of the more than 14,400 employees are currently isolated. Therefore, since the start of the pandemic, planned and non-emergency operations had to be postponed again and again and beds had to be closed,” the hospital said.
Across Germany, dozens of other hospitals have agreed to reduce their operating capacities.
At the hospital in Erding, Bavaria, an average of 140 out of 800 employees are currently sick every day. Additionally, there are many vacancies that cannot be filled. In the meantime, one service is completely shut down, while others can only operate to a limited extent, and some planned operations cannot be performed.
The Mercurynewspaper reported from a doctor in a Munich hospital. There are currently only three operating theaters out of eight in operation, he explained. Ongoing operations are sometimes interrupted due to an emergency. “And it’s now the middle of summer, not winter.” The doctor said he had never experienced such a shortage of staff.
The strike by nurses at the university hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia also demonstrates the catastrophic situation in health care. Employees are now in their tenth week on strike at six teaching hospitals. As the Verdi union works to break the strike by reaching a so-called ‘collective relief agreement’, workers are protesting the unsustainable conditions that endanger the lives and well-being of patients and employees.
Even in the face of these disastrous developments, the government is sticking to its pandemic policy. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (Social Democrat) and other government officials have made it clear that effective measures such as lockdowns and the closure of schools and businesses will no longer be considered under any circumstances. Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in his summer interview with public broadcaster ARD: “School closures shouldn’t happen anymore.”
Some states have repealed the last remaining measures. In Bavaria, the state government recently abolished the obligation to wear a mask on public transport. Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (Christian Social Union) defended the decision with the right-wing mantra: “We are therefore focusing more on the personal responsibility of citizens.”
Under conditions of staff shortages due to coronavirus infections, Free Democratic Party Vice Chairman Wolfgang Kubicki has called for a further reduction in the quarantine period for people who test positive to three days.
The trade unions also defend the policy of “profit before life”. Maike Finnern of the Teachers’ Union (GEW) told the RND that further school and childcare closures in the autumn must be avoided. It is precisely the reopening of daycares and schools that has led to an explosive increase in infections and facilitated the spread of viral mutations.
In Berlin, the Social Democratic/Left Party/Greens government, the so-called “Red-Red-Green Senate”, is implementing a policy of health care austerity. The district of Neukölln alone must reduce its coronavirus staff from 54 to 10 employees. Neukölln public health doctor Nicolai Savaskan said this will no longer guarantee protection for vulnerable groups in nursing homes and nursing homes. “It means serious cases and deaths,” the doctor said.