1.5 million new infections in one week: Lauterbach issues a warning

The incidence in Germany continues to rise, while most of the corona rules are being abolished at the same time. Health Minister Lauterbach and RKI boss Wieler warn of the next wave of infections.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), have warned against declaring the pandemic over. “The situation doesn’t look good,” Lauterbach said at a joint press conference on Friday.

There can be no talk of a “Freedom Day” in Germany. On the contrary: “It could be that the number of deaths will increase in the next few weeks.” The attitude according to the motto “We’ll wait until the weather gets better” cannot be maintained. “We can’t let it go like this,” said Lauterbach. It is still too long until summer.

Karl Lauterbach: The Minister of Health calls on the unvaccinated to get vaccinated. (Source: Kay Nietfeld/dpa)

The minister appealed to the federal states to now implement rules according to the amended Infection Protection Act, which are still possible regionally for so-called hotspots in critical situations. An overburdening of the healthcare system that can be determined for this purpose can be measured by specific criteria – for example, if operations that can be planned have to be postponed or patients have to be transferred. Lauterbach reiterated that hotspots can also cover an entire federal state in this way.

Lauterbach: “The risk is now higher than it has ever been”

He also appealed to all people who are not yet vaccinated to change this. The unvaccinated should realize that the risk of becoming infected is higher than ever. “Do yourself and all of us a favor,” Lauterbach asked. Nothing is more unnecessary than getting infected now, just before the weather pushes back the infection process.

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Lauterbach also addressed people in the risk groups: They should be vaccinated a fourth time. Currently, less than ten percent of those to whom the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) recommends the second booster are actually vaccinated a fourth time. “We have to be more aggressive with the fourth vaccination,” said Lauterbach.

Wieler: “It will not be the last corona wave”

RKI boss Wieler agreed with Lauterbach on many points: “The pandemic is not over yet – on the contrary.” And: “It will not be the last corona wave,” he warned. Although vaccination cannot always prevent an infection, in most cases it protects against becoming seriously ill.

Susanne Johna, 1st Chairwoman of the Marburg Association (l), Karl Lauterbach, Federal Minister of Health and Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI): They appeal to everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so.  (Source: imago images/Political Moments)Susanne Johna, 1st Chairwoman of the Marburg Association (l), Karl Lauterbach, Federal Minister of Health and Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI): They appeal to everyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so. (Source: Political Moments/imago images)

The RKI boss also warned again to behave cautiously. With a view to the easing of infection control measures, it now depends “on all of us behavior” how the numbers develop, said Wieler. Anyone who has symptoms should stay at home for three to five days and if possible not meet anyone outside of the household, especially no people with risk factors. Wieler also continued to recommend the AHA rules – and particularly emphasized the importance of wearing a mask indoors.

Lauterbach on the general obligation to vaccinate: “I’m optimistic”

When asked whether there would be a general obligation to vaccinate, Minister Lauterbach was confident. The question is whether the Union votes in the end and whether the existing applications are brought together, said the SPD politician. There are also many supporters in the Union. “Therefore, I do believe that in the end, I’m optimistic, we will be able to make vaccination compulsory.”

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When implementing this, he thinks it makes sense to involve the health insurance companies. Discussions are taking place at all levels and the Bundestag should vote on them in the week after next.

Lauterbach again cited the vaccination rate in Germany as the reason for compulsory vaccination. “The vaccination rate that we have now is too low to get through in the fall without drastic measures for all variants that we know so far.” Significant measures would then again be necessary. Other countries may not need vaccination because their vaccination rate is higher, the minister explained.

When asked how many vaccinations compulsory vaccination would include, Lauterbach did not find a clear answer. This depends on several factors such as the virus variant, its R value, but also the existing vaccination rate. “The higher the rate, the better off we are,” says Lauterbach.

Lauterbach and Wieler warn of omicron infection

Wieler and Lauterbach repeatedly warned in their press conference not to take the Omicron variant seriously. “Every week, more than 1,000 people die in connection with an omicron infection in our country,” said the RKI boss. Many in the clinics needed supplemental oxygen, Lauterbach said. “It’s no small matter.” It must be emphasized even more that an infection with omicron can very well be bad.

The seven-day incidence in Germany meanwhile keeps reaching new highs, on Friday it was 1,756.4. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also announced on Thursday that there were more than 1.5 million new corona cases within a week – more than ever before in the pandemic. The driver of the current development is the omicron subtype BA.2.

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At the same time, most of the protective measures will be abolished in the coming week at the latest, after a transitional period has expired, as a result of the amendment to the Infection Protection Act. Lauterbach would still support it, for example, if supermarket chains or large organizers continued to make mask specifications for their interiors according to domiciliary rights.

Drosten: “Don’t just let it go”

Despite the easing that has been initiated, the virologist Christian Drosten is still urging careful action in the corona pandemic. It is very important that the easing is not understood as an unthinking opening, said Drosten on Friday evening in the ARD “Tagesthemen”. “You have to watch what’s happening closely, the virus hasn’t become absolutely harmless. You just have to moderate the situation and not just let it run its course.”