Germany: younger patients and worried doctors

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It is a triangle with an exclamation point under which the word “variant” stands out: this warning is now common at the entrance to the rooms of patients with Covid-19 in the Bavarian hospital in Freising.

As in many European countries, the third epidemic wave affecting this hospital in southern Germany differs from the two previous episodes: the majority of patients are carriers of the British variant of the virus, which is more contagious, indicated by the mention “UK-Mutante”. On their door.

And they are much younger, “between 40 and 60 years for the most part,” notes Dr. Thomas Marx, 42, medical director of the intensive care unit.

“They often have to be intubated and fight the disease for a long time,” he explains, adding that a quarter of them do not survive.

During AFP’s visit to this service, a man in his forties is lying in a room. Eyes exhausted, an oxygen hose in his nose, he was breathing hard. “We were able to avoid intubating it, even though we were ready to do it a few days ago,” says Thomas Marx.

Long healing

Avoiding intubation means allowing patients, already very weakened by the virus, not to have to undergo treatment with serious consequences.

At the patient’s bedside, the doctor nevertheless explains to him that his recovery will still require a lot of time.

The number of hospitalized patients aged 35 to 49 years has “strongly increased”, warned at the end of last week Lothar Wieler, the director of the institute of health watch Robert Koch (RKI).

“The situation is serious (…). The third wave of the pandemic is holding our country under its control, ”Chancellor Angela Merkel again insisted on Tuesday, justifying her government’s decision to grant itself increased powers to combat the epidemic.

“The third wave of Covid-19 has clearly reached us,” says Thomas Marx, in Freising. Of the 14 beds in the service, 5 are occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Among them, a man of sixty years, intubated and who can communicate only with the help of a pen and a slate placed on his knees.

A gloved hand resting on his shoulder, a caregiver tries to understand it: “You want to talk to your wife, right?” He asks.

Once out of the rooms, Doctor Marx removes his protective visor and gown. A smile can be guessed under his FFP2 mask, but also weariness.

Uncertain tomorrow

More than a year after the start of the pandemic, “we are still fighting every day for our patients so when I watch the news and see that the protective measures are not enough … It’s hard to bear », He confides.

Germany has been debating for weeks a further strengthening of measures to combat the pandemic.

Angela Merkel succeeded on Tuesday in imposing her strict line vis-à-vis the regions, with the forthcoming establishment of a national mechanism harmonizing restrictions throughout Germany: night curfews, reduction of contacts and store closures will be mandatory when the rate of The incidence, which measures infections over one week, is over 100 for three days.

As of Tuesday, that incidence rate stood at 140.9 in the country. The law has yet to be passed by parliament, presumably next week, to apply.

Germany currently has 4,642 patients with Covid-19 in intensive care and this number is increasing faster than expected, alarmed medical officials.

At Freising hospital, the effect of the new measures may not be felt for a few weeks. Doctor Marx says he is “worried” for the days to come. “The question is not only whether we can treat Covid-19 patients,” he said. “You also have to be able to take care of all the other patients and not reduce the quality of their care.”