Lauterbach was providing an update on the Covid pandemic in Germany at a press conference held alongside the head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, on Friday.
“We are in what we call a critical situation,” said Lauterbach, warning that intensive care services could get overwhelmed and cases of so-called long Covid could grow.
At the moment around 200 to 250 people are dying every day in connection with Covid-19 in Germany.
“I often read that the Omicron variant is less virulent. That’s only partially true,” said Lauterbach, saying he believes the number of daily deaths will continue to rise in the coming weeks.
READ ALSO: Germany sees steep rise in Covid infections
On Friday, Germany saw 252,836 confirmed Covid infections and 249 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence stood at 1,439 infections per 100,000 people.
Lothar Wieler, RKI chief, said the situation was worsening because of the more transmissible sub-variant BA.2, which now comprises more than a third of new cases in Germany.
As The Local has been reporting, Germany is set to drop almost all Covid restrictions from March 20th, but basic measures will remain.
The new legal basis for Covid restrictions after this date provides that measures such as masking and testing can continue in areas where it is needed, Lauterbach said.
He clarified that Covid “hotspots” could be large areas, and not just individual cities or regions. These kinds of protective regulations could “also affect an entire federal state”, he said.
Lauterbach reiterated his call for a general vaccine mandate in Germany. “We absolutely need compulsory vaccination,” he urged.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called for vaccinations to be made mandatory, but plans to pass the bill in parliament have been delayed.
The initiative however remains controversial with even some members of the parties making up his three-way coalition opposed.
Austria, which had led the way on obligatory jabs, has also this week suspended the rule.
Around three in four people in Germany are fully vaccinated, and 57 percent have received a third dose.
But 19.6 million people – including four million aged four years and younger – remain unvaccinated.
How will the pandemic develop?
The Health Minister outlined four possible scenarios for the development of the pandemic. These were: the Omicron variant of Covid-19 remains, Omicron becomes more dangerous, the Delta variant of Covid-19 comes back or combinations of these factors.
He also warned of a large wave of infections in the coming months.
“With the level of unvaccinated people, we can say quite clearly: even in summer, the pandemic will not be over,” warned Lauterbach.
“Far too many people are still contracting Covid, far too many are still dying from Covid and far too many are still suffering from long-Covid symptoms,” said RKI head Wieler.
Severe illness, many deaths and long-term consequences can be avoided through vaccination, Wieler said, adding: “Vaccination is and remains the best and safest way to immunity.”