Corona in the Rhine-Sieg District Official infection figures in the district lag behind reality

Rhein-Sieg-Kreis · District Administrator Schuster estimates the incidence in the Rhein-Sieg district to be twice as high as officially stated. Among other things, he blames the new Sormas registration system for the delays in reporting. And he foresees further problems for the health department.

 Test centre in Sankt Augustin.

Test centre in Sankt Augustin.

Foto: Dylan Cem Akalin

District Administrator Sebastian Schuster would also like to raise the white flag at the district hall. "But we can’t give up," he said on Wednesday at the video press conference on the Corona situation in the Rhine-Sieg district. The reporting delays are now so high that the published official incidence figures are not meaningful, he said. The reason lies in the unspeakably high number of findings that are received every day. On Tuesday alone, a new record was reached with 1,318 findings.

 Currently, more than 6,000 PCR test results plus about 4,000 results from the citizen test centres are still unprocessed at the health office. "We must therefore take a critical view of the published figures," said the district administrator. The figures published via the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) show declining incidence values in recent days, but they are "no longer reliable indicators". According to estimates by the experts in the district house, the seven-day incidence in the Rhein-Sieg district is rather twice as high as the currently stated 699.4 new infections. The value is probably comparable to those in Cologne or Bonn, where the value was given as 1,607.5 on Wednesday.

 Sormas does not help

Last week, 204,648 tests were carried out by the more than 300 testing centres in the Rhine-Sieg district. Of these, 5,573 were positive. So far, the rate has always been around 0.5 percent, now it is 2.72 percent. The fault lies in the system. Although the Rhein-Sieg district was one of the first health offices nationwide to switch to the digital recording system Sormas, this does not help the staff much in actually recording the data. Fifty of them alone are only involved in recording the data, the district administrator explained.

 The head of the Covid office, Ralf Thomas, said the recording tool lacked certain automations in registering data from the findings. This had been repeatedly pointed out to the ministries. The laboratories send the results on the one hand via a digital interface and at the same time as a PDF file from which more detailed information can be extracted. "We have to tackle each finding individually to determine whether it is a first finding or a follow-up finding or only a typing of a positive case. Certain values have to be entered manually," says Thomas.

 Similarly, the information coming from the test centres has to be handled. The district is currently in talks with an external service provider who wants to provide software that can at least automatically record the positive results from the rapid test centres.

 Software updates are a step backwards in the recording process

Complicating matters, he said, was the fact that every software update from Sormas meant "a step backwards". The district administrator: "Sormas is a disaster. Originally, it was supposed to put an end to the paperwork with the faxes, but instead we have to enter individual case data because the system takes over the data incompletely." The federal government had obliged the municipalities to enter the data, "but we simply can't do it any more". What the state and federal ministries have to do with the funds made available at the same time is an "indictment of poverty", said Schuster.

 So far, the findings have been processed according to the order in which they were received. "But that leads to even greater uncertainties in the data statements," Thomas said. Since Tuesday, the team has been giving priority to the daily arrivals. In some cases, they were so late with the registration that the quarantine period of the persons concerned had already expired.

 Compulsory vaccination becomes a problem

A difficult issue for both the Health and Social Welfare Departments is therefore the upcoming compulsory vaccination of medical facilities. Employees of medical facilities, i.e. clinics and doctors' practices, nursing and care facilities, will have to prove their vaccination status as of 16 March. If they are unable to do so, the health office must issue a corresponding order that these persons may no longer enter the facility. Employers must inform the health authorities if proof is not provided. The health authorities are the institution in the procedure that prohibits employment in the facility. The question of what happens if the health offices are unable to do so because they are overworked remains open.

 The district administrator made it clear on Wednesday that his health office, like all the other 31 districts in the state, cannot do this. "I expect the municipal umbrella organisation to clarify with the state how all this is to be done administratively."

Original text: Dylan Cem Akalin

Translation: Mareike Graepel