Corona pandemic in the region Rhein-Sieg district prepares for Omicron wave
Rhein-Sieg-Kreis · Eight cases of the highly contagious Omicron variant have been reported so far in the Rhein-Sieg district. It is unlikely that this number will remain low. Emergency services are already preparing for large-scale corona quarantines
The highly contagious Omicron variant is not yet too strong in the Rhine-Sieg district. There are eight confirmed cases to date, as District Administrator Sebastian Schuster announced at the district's Corona press conference on Wednesday. "These numbers are not very reliable and should not give a sense of security," Schuster warned, however.
The gene sequencing, which is used to distinguish between the virus variants, takes several days, so that a robust number of unreported cases must be expected. Furthermore, the new variant is far more infectious than all previous types of the virus. The eight people infected could quickly become thousands, also because there are gaps in immunisation against Omicron through vaccination and recovery.
Currently "no danger" for critical infrastructure
The federal government's Corona Expert Council has therefore warned against the failure of critical infrastructure. A warning that is taken seriously in the district administration. "A steep rise in omicron is not to be expected, at least until the holidays. That is why we are now using the time to prepare ourselves," Schuster summarised the situation. At the moment, however, there is no danger to the critical infrastructure.
Immediately after the press conference, he himself had a video call with the State Ministry of the Interior to ensure the operational capability of the police in the district area. After all, the vaccination rate there is remarkable. According to the Ministry of the Interior, 96 percent of the policemen and women in North Rhine-Westphalia are vaccinated. The fire brigade is also busy.
Days off for health department staff
In the district administration, the Corona situation among the emergency services is scrupulously observed. "As soon as a firefighter has Corona, I have a situation report on my desk," says public order officer Michael Rudersdorf. "And at the moment there are no situation reports there," he adds. Nevertheless, it is conceivable that emergency services will have to be flexible over the holidays and between the years. Like Schuster and Rudersdorf, of course, police officers and firefighters know that short-term assignments during the holidays are also possible.
Most health department staff, however, can count on a few days off. "The staff there have been up to their tonsils in work for two years. So they have earned the holidays off," Schuster thinks. Only the registration system supported by the German Armed Forces is supposed to be manned on Christmas, New Year's Day and New Year's Eve. "We want to avoid late registrations as much as possible," explains health department head Kirsten Hasper. These can lead to false reporting of the incidence values.
District Administrator appeals to the population
The district administrator appeals to the population to keep the omicron wave as small as possible. For example, by making generous use of the test offers before visiting family and friends, and cancelling the party in case of a positive result. "Testing as a precaution can't hurt," says Schuster.
"The upcoming wave with the Omicron virus variant can only be countered with stringent measures," says district fire chief Dirk Engstenberg. Engstenberg wants to coordinate these with the individual fire brigades in the district before Christmas. "For example, we would reduce service operations to a minimum and primarily ensure emergency services continue," he summarises conceivable steps.
Fire brigade pandemic plans
Pandemic plans have been in place in the district's 19 fire brigades since the beginning of the pandemic. They are divided into escalation phases that allow for an adapted approach depending on the state of the infection wave. According to Engstenberg, the preliminary plans are based on the general corona ordinances of the state and the Robert Koch Institute as well as the experiences of the past months.
Engstenberg explains: "I hold regular service meetings with the heads of the fire brigades(,) weekly depending on the infection situation and dynamics, to coordinate an assessment and adjustment of hygiene measures. This coordination procedure has proved very successful and guarantees a uniform approach in the district area, especially since the respective municipalities act under their own responsibility.“
Vaccination rate of firefighters at least 95 per cent
Currently, according to Engstenberg, all fire brigades in the district are fully operational. Based on a reporting procedure, all cases of infection and quarantine in the fire brigades are recorded in numbers and reported to the district. "This gives us a very accurate picture of the situation and we can react precisely in the event of an increase in cases. So far, none of the 109 fire brigade units in the district has not been operational," says the district fire chief.
Engstenberg goes on to say that the vaccination rate among the total of 3,900 active firefighters in the Rhine-Sieg district is at least 95 per cent. Unvaccinated people are not allowed to take part in operations. (Original text: Sören Becker and Hans-Peter Fuss.Translation: Mareike Graepel)