Germany is gripped by a third wave of the pandemic, which has brought an increased number of infections of the more contagious British variant and left many younger patients sick. “The third wave is clearly upon us,” 42-year-old Thomas Marx, medical director of a hospital in Freising, Bavaria, told AFP.
Of the clinic’s 14 intensive care beds, five are occupied by Covid-19 patients. The patients are also younger now, with most of them “between 40 and 60”, according to Marx. “They often have to be intubated and then face a long fight with the virus,” the doctor sighed, adding that one in four do not survive their battle with Covid-19.
In one bed at the intensive care unit, a man of about 40 looked exhausted as he struggled to breathe through an oxygen tube. “We were ready to intubate him a few days ago, but we managed to avoid it,” said Marx. Nevertheless, his recovery will still take a long time, the doctor explained at the man’s bedside.
After coming through the first wave of the pandemic relatively unscathed, Germany has been rocked by a rough third wave. The number of hospitalised patients aged 35 to 49 has “strongly increased” lately, said Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI infections disease control agency.
Despite repeated warnings from health workers about the urgency of the situation, German authorities remain entangled in a fierce political debate over restrictions imposed to fight the pandemic.
While Chancellor Angela Merkel has been pushing for tougher measures to keep the population home and avoid contagion, some of the country’s powerful regional leaders are refusing to sign up.
Fed up with the dithering states, Merkel’s government agreed a law change which would give Berlin more centralised power to impose tougher measures such as night-time curfews in hard-hit areas.
“When I look at the news and I see that the measures are not enough, it’s difficult to take,” admitted Marx.
Marx voiced fears about the days ahead. “It’s not just a question of treating those with Covid-19, it’s also about dealing with all the other patients and making sure we don’t reduce the quality of their care,” he said.