Germany’s Covid curbs ‘not enough’, warns Health Minister

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at a press conference on December 22nd, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld
Germany's health minister warned Wednesday that current coronavirus curbs will not suffice in preventing a wave of new infections of the highly transmissible variant Omicron.

Europe’s biggest economy on Tuesday shuttered nightclubs and forced sports competitions behind closed doors. It also limited private gatherings to 10 vaccinated people — or just two households if an unvaccinated person is present.

The rules came on top of restrictions already hitting the unimmunised who are barred from shops, restaurants and cultural events.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The rules and official advice for Christmas and New Year in Germany

But Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said they may have to be toughened up further

“The protective measures that we are currently using to largely successfully counter the wave of Delta infections will not be enough to prevent a significant rise in Omicron cases,” he said.

“I do not believe the drop in the overall case numbers to be sustainable. And we’ll have to react to that,” he added.

Germany is currently reporting a falling trend in daily new infections, but Lauterbach said the true number of cases could be much higher because fewer tests were being done over the Christmas holiday season.

The real incidence is two or three times as high as the current rate of 205 cases per 100,000 people over seven days reported Wednesday, the minister said. 

READ ALSO: Prevalence of Omicron in Germany unclear, cautions Health Minister

A sharp jump was expected “within a short period of time”, he said, as data over the festive season is fed into the system and as the proportion of Omicron cases grows.

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The startlingly rapid spread of Omicron has forced many countries to reintroduce painful curbs despite their hefty economic and social consequences.

France on Wednesday reported a record of 200,000 new cases in a day, with Health Minister Oliver Veran describing Omicron as a “landslide”.

Like Germany, France has been urging the population to get their booster jabs to improve antibody defences against Omicron.

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