Prevalence of Omicron in Germany unclear, cautions Health Minister

Adverts for PCR testing at a pharmacy in Munich.
Adverts for PCR testing at a pharmacy in Munich. Photo: Peter Kneffel/dpa
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has said that reporting delays over the festive period have clouded the picture around the spread of the infectious Omicron variant.

The spread of the Omicron variant is “not accurately reflected in the official figures because of test failures and reporting delays,” Lauterbach told Bild newspaper on Wednesday. 

“I am currently obtaining an overall picture of the situation with the Robert Koch Institute and numerous data sources from all over Germany,” the Health Minister added.

A total of 10,443 suspected cases of infection with the Omicron variant have been reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), according to figures published on Wednesday.

The disease control agency said shortly before Christmas that it expects the variant to become dominant in the next two to three weeks.

Incomplete data

For the second year in a row, local health agencies have transferred incomplete data to the RKI over the Christmas period, while the disease control agency also points out that less testing has been done.

The RKI confirmed on Tuesday though that the number of likely Omicron cases jumped by 45 percent compared to the previous day. Only a small number of positive cases are tested in Germany for which variant of the virus is causing the infection.

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Lauterbach’s warning on Omicron comes even as daily reported cases of new coronavirus infections are dropping in Germany.

The RKI announced on Wednesday morning that a further 40,043 cases had been reported to them over the previous 24 hours. The 7-day incidence of infection has dropped to 205, down from 215 on Tuesday and 289 cases per 100,000 people a week ago.

Nevertheless, the RKI points out that a drop in overall testing over the Christmas holidays could be obscuring the picture.

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