Experts raise doubt over pandemic ending in Germany after Omicron

Although Germany is in the grip of the Omicron wave of Covid-19, there is hope that the pandemic will soon become endemic. But experts say there may be other variants to contend with.

A sign for Covid tests in Laatzen, Lower Saxony.
A sign for Covid tests in Laatzen, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

They are worried that the Delta strain of Covid-19 – or another variant – will return after Omicron eases. 

“It is absolutely possible that Delta will return after the current wave has died down,” Ulrike Protzer, head of the Institute of Virology at the Technical University of Munich, told Germany’s Funke-Mediengruppe newspapers. “We cannot be sure that Omicron will replace Delta.”

Omicron, although more transmissible, generally results in milder disease than previous variants like Delta, raising hopes that it will hasten the transition to the endemic phase. 

Protzer pointed out that immunity after an Omicron infection is “a bit different” than after a Delta infection.

“But if you are vaccinated, and then maybe had an infection in addition, the immune system can cope well with new variants that might come now,” Protzer said.

However, Protzer said it may be that risk groups should get a fourth vaccination dose in autumn. The data from Israel, where the vaccination campaign for the fourth dose is currently underway, could help in this assessment, she said. 

READ ALSO: How worried should we be about Germany’s rocketing Covid rates?

Gérard Krause, epidemiologist at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig, also expressed scepticism about the pandemic coming to an end quickly. 

“I don’t share the euphoria that Omicron is now leading us into an endemic situation,” Krause told Funke-Zeitung. “We don’t know what other variants are coming that might bypass immunity and also lead to severe courses.”

Due to decreasing vaccination protection and infections with different variants, many people could get “partial immunity”, but this would not help equally against every variant.

The question of when the pandemic will be over is primarily a question of how to deal with Covid, Krause said.

“How many illnesses are we prepared to accept, how many can we prevent and at what price?” – there must be a social understanding about these questions, he said, adding that this is not a purely medical-based, but about what society wants. 

Regular flu waves waves could serve as a blueprint.

“The goal must be to prevent the worst damage and to protect the weakest,” said the expert in epidemiology. “The losses of a moderate influenza season are obviously something we as a society are prepared to accept.”

While a pandemic spreads across countries and continents, diseases or pathogens are called endemic if they are persistent and clustered in a limited region or in parts of the population.

READ ALSO: Germany has Omicron wave ‘well under control’, says Health Minister

In the case of Sars-Cov-2, an endemic situation means that the virus will stay in circulation. People will have to live with it, but it will become less dangerous for the population as a whole.

On Monday, Germany reported 78,318 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 61 deaths. 

However, experts believe there is a high number of unrecorded cases. 

The 7-day incidence reached a new high of 1,176.8 infections per 100,000 people. 

Member comments

  1. So they have absolutely no idea. What a load of tripe. There are many countries ahead of us in the omicron wave we need only look at them.
    There’s also a new omicron variant which looks less dangerous than the first omicron variant. Omicron has overcome delta and all other variants. With no real reason to believe delta could come back. Unless Fauci funds some more not gain of function. Gain of function research.

    These So called experts are just worried they will loose the spot light and fade into obscurity. So throw out this to keep people afraid. The virus is going to do what virus’ do. You can live in complete fear . Or you can live.

    Just remember none of us get out of here alive.

  2. These people do not want the cameras turning away from them. This pandemic was the best thing that ever happened to them and if we let them, they will never declare it over.

  3. What a bunch of idiots:

    1. “We cannot be sure that Omicron will replace Delta.”.
    It already has! Check data from…well…anywhere!

    2. “We don’t know what other variants are coming that might bypass immunity and also lead to severe courses.”
    Well I’m glad he brought such solid evidence. Wouldn’t want to scare people needlessly…

    R-value for Germany will be below 1 in a day or two.
    Give it two weeks or so for hospitalisations to go down. Then I think we’ve earned to be treated like the Scandiavians.

  4. There is no reason to be so pessimistic about the Pandemic we got through Omicron as that one was not so very severe. We will have to learn to deal with virus but Germany is still very vaccine hesitant which is a concern when the vax is perfectly safe.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”