Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has warned against carelessness ahead of the planned imminent abolition of Corona restrictions in Germany. "The situation is objectively much worse than the mood," the SPD politician said in Berlin on Friday, referring to a renewed sharp rise in infection figures.
He called the situation critical and objected to sweeping assessments that the Omicron variant is milder. The variant can be fatal, he said, affecting unvaccinated people, "but even those who are vaccinated can become seriously ill and develop long-term consequences."
And, "We cannot be satisfied with a situation where 200 to 250 people die every day." This, he said, is an unsustainable situation that needs to be addressed.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Friday reported the ninth consecutive day of increase in seven-day incidence to now 1439.0 new infections per 100,000 population in seven days.
Accordingly, the health offices reported 252,836 new cases in one day, and 249 additional deaths were also registered within 24 hours. For comparison, the previous day the value had been 1388.5. A week ago, the nationwide incidence was 1196.4 (previous month: 1472.2).
The new version of the Infection Protection Act therefore provides that measures such as masking and testing obligations could continue to be taken in hotspots, Lauterbach said. Hotspots could certainly be large areas and not just individual cities or regions.
Such protective regulations could then "also affect an entire state." Action will be taken where there is an outbreak, Lauterbach said.
However, the new Infection Protection Act, which is to be passed by the Bundestag next week, does not specify a concrete limit value for hotspots. This is always dependent on the current Corona variant, he said, which is why the states need leeway here. "There is no other way."
It would be best for the states to coordinate. Cologne is currently a hotspot, he said, which is probably related to Carnival. As a result, scheduled operations had to be postponed at the university hospital, for example.
The president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, also considers the current corona situation in Germany to be tense and urges great vigilance. "Far too many people still fall seriously ill with Covid and too many people still die from this disease. And still many people also suffer long-term consequences from Covid," Wieler said at the joint press conference with Lauterbach.
Especially in the older age groups, the hospitalization rate is rising; in about half of the current Covid patients in intensive care units are over 70 years old, Wieler said. This is also due to the gradual relaxation of infection control measures in many places and the associated change in behavior of many people, he said.
He also focused on possible long-term consequences after infection, which could affect adults and - although probably less frequently - adolescents and children as well. Some of these people remain severely limited in the long term. However, the data available on the long-term consequences is still limited.
"So the situation remains tense, but we can influence the incidence of infection with our behavior," Wieler said. Reiterating his calls for vaccination, he stressed that many severe courses, deaths and long-term sequelae can be avoided through vaccination. "Vaccination remains the best and safest path to immunity," he said. He also urged all people to adhere to other known protective measures, maintain vigilance and pay particular attention to vulnerable groups.
Lauterbach said four scenarios are conceivable for the fall, which variants of the coronavirus dominate in Germany. Under all scenarios, he said, the general vaccination requirement under discussion is necessary because the genome of the coronavirus is 96 percent identical regardless of the variant. "We absolutely need the general vaccination requirement," Lauterbach said. The arguments against it are scientifically wrong, he added.