Monday, October 26

FAZ exclusive: Health authorities are finding the origin of a corona outbreak less and less

IIn which areas can everyday life be restricted in order to prevent corona infections? In order to decide that, the political leaders need to know where people get infected with the virus. But the health authorities find it difficult to assign the outbreaks. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) found out the origin of an infection in less than 30 percent of infections, said a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Health. It goes with the fact that the federal states also have little specific information about where people are infected, as a FAZ survey showed.

Timo Steppat

In Hesse, the outbreak could be identified in 38.8 percent of all currently infected people last week. In Thuringia the value was at least 44.6 percent. In Baden-Württemberg, 43.9 percent of the corona cases could still be assigned in mid-September; In the second week of October, on the other hand, the assignment was only possible in every fifth case in another outbreak in the southwest. In Bavaria, 80 percent of the places of infection were recently unknown, but of the 20 percent found, every second person was infected at home in September and early October. What the countries have in common on average: The already comparatively low rate of outbreaks identified is falling, the infection rate is becoming diffuse – and around half of the infections occur in the private sector, in families or shared apartments.

The figures from the countries now show that infections rarely occur in social contacts. In North Rhine-Westphalia only seven percent of the cases cleared up at the end of September were infected with friends or acquaintances. In Bavaria it is five to 15 percent of the cases identified. So are meeting friends less dangerous? Given that the majority of cases cannot be attributed to an outbreak event, this is rather unlikely. The basic rule applies: If two or more people sit in a closed room, the risk increases. The dark field is big.

The fact that so few infections can be traced back to individual encounters is mainly due to the lack of memory of those affected. Anyone who falls ill with Covid-19 receives a call from the health department. “Can you imagine where you got infected?” Some say that there is someone in your circle of friends, in the family or at work who has tested positive. “Have you been in a room with him for more than 15 minutes?” If the answer is yes, an infection can be assigned to a so-called index case. In the meantime, however, it is the exception, according to many health authorities.

If those affected cannot answer right away, the follower asks: “Where were you seven to ten days ago?” That would have been the likely time of the infection. Because the number of contacts has increased massively in recent months, a long list is often created: work, sports club, restaurant visit – and sometimes a party or family celebration such as a wedding or birthday. The more alcohol has flowed, the lower the inhibitions and the higher the likelihood of infection. But in the meantime, large celebrations, which are limited in number in many places, are no longer the decisive drivers of the infection process. Only one in ten of the most recently assigned corona cases in Baden-Württemberg was due to large parties or weddings.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) recently said that more has been known about the spread of the virus. Infection in local transport, for example, is unlikely. He was referring to an investigation by the RKI, which examined those cases in which the health authorities were able to assign an outbreak event. Of these 7800 infections that were examined by the RKI, only 19 occurred in transport. However, the number of cases of 7,800 is a comparatively small amount in view of the meanwhile more than 360,000 infected people and in view of the large dark field.

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