High sick leaves in Germany: Why Corona is not the only evil at the moment – knowledge

Today, far more people get sick than usual, which is also due to Covid-19, but not only. Photo: imago / / Iordache Magdalena

Today, many people are sick and there is a shortage of workers everywhere. This applies not only to the Corona summer wave. What are the reasons?

The summer corona wave is leading to more and more infections. At the same time, many employees are currently absent due to illness. Why is that and what does it mean for fall? We answer the most important questions.

What is the situation with the infection?

In early July, the incidence curve reached its most recent peak with 725 confirmed infections per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide – this is the summer wave that has been going on since Pentecost and is driven by the omicron BA.5 subtype. New infections are spreading very unevenly throughout Germany: in Schleswig-Holstein there are around 1000, in Thuringia less than 300.

Are many people sick now?

Based on population and medical data, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) estimates that currently around 4.5 million people suffer from acute respiratory disease. So about 1.2 million people went to the doctor last week. Values ​​far above what is usually at the beginning of July. Many times more people get sick than during the corona summer 2020 and 2021.

Data from insurance companies available to our newspaper confirm this statement: in May 2022, the AOK Baden-Württemberg registered about 43 percent more sick leaves than in the previous year and a quarter more than in 2020. Among those insured by Techniker Krankenkasse, the number of sick leaves in the country as a whole is about a third higher than last spring.

Why are there so many sick people?

“People go out more, hardly wear masks – so we are now seeing an increase in sick leave, not least because of the crown,” says Sebastian Bader, spokesman for AOK Baden-Württemberg. The insurance company counted five times more respiratory infections in May than in 2020, compared to almost three times more in 2021. Some of them are catching-up infections, and this increase is partly due to the elimination of protective measures such as wearing masks or restricting contact.

Covid-19 is at the top. To illustrate the dimensions using data from AOK Baden-Württemberg: in addition to nearly 96,000 acute respiratory infections, almost 31,000 reports were reported for Covid-19 in May. This is over three times more than a year ago.

How long will the summer wave last?

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has been showing a slightly decreasing number of infections for almost a week. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean the end of the wave. The value of morbidity has declined in importance over time and is now a more approximate indicator of an increasing or decreasing number of infections. The slight decline over the past few days is not yet clear enough.

It also has to do with test fatigue: there are currently around 1.5 PCR tests for each infection. In the summer of 2021, there were ten times more. In addition, citizen tests are now paid, which should significantly weaken demand. Those who test less tend to discover fewer infected people – and accept a greater number of unreported cases that are not included in the 7-day incidence. But even undetected infected people can infect others who then fall ill.

Is the healthcare system overloaded?

You shouldn’t be afraid of that, at least in summer. The number of Covid 19 patients in intensive care has almost doubled in a month to well over 1000. However, you should not be concerned about peaks such as those recently observed in December with nearly 5,000 patients.

The summer wave is a strain on normal stations. Meanwhile, a similar number of Covid-19 patients visit clinics as was last spring. They need to be isolated for treatment, and their numbers are now increasing. In addition, there is a high percentage of sick leave in clinics.

What does this mean for fall?

A year ago, weekly laboratory tests nationwide confirmed fewer than 10,000 Covid 19 infections, compared with over half a million last week. In 2021, the number of infections increased slightly during the holiday months. Germany is likely to start the winter six months with a fairly high infection base, with a corresponding risk of new highs in detected and undetected infections, hospital treatment and sick leave, not just among parents with children.

Unless a new, more morbid variant emerges, this corresponds to the “baseline scenario” that the Federal Council of Experts on the Federal Government developed in early June. The statement said: “Despite the moderate burden of intensive care, absences from work may again require national transmission protection measures (masks and indoor distance).” Ways to reduce contact such as upper limits for events in confined spaces are also mentioned.

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