In a press conference held on Friday in Berlin, Lauterbach said that the pandemic was “far from over”.
“We are in a situation where we cannot simply wait and see,” Lauterbach said.
On Thursday, German health offices reported more than 300,000 infections within a day – a record high.
But Lauterbach said the real figures are likely twice as high.
“It is unfortunately not a good situation,” he said.
The Health Minister also warned that the death toll could rise in the coming weeks, even if new infections stabilise.
On Friday Germany reported 296,498 Covid infections per 100,000 people and 288 deaths within the latest 24 hour period. The 7-day incidence was 1,7654.4 infections per 100,000 people.
‘No freedom day’
Germany is in the process of relaxing Covid restrictions. In fact, the country was set to drop almost all Covid restrictions on March 20th, but most states used a transitional period to extend current restrictions until the beginning of April.
However, Lauterbach urged states to make use of a ‘hotspot’ mechanism in the new Covid protection laws that mean tougher restrictions – like the ‘G’ rules for entering places like restaurants – can remain if needed.
“There can be no talk of a ‘freedom day’ – quite the opposite,” said the SPD politician.
“We must also use the hotspot regulation.”
He cited Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania as an example of how the rule could be applied by state parliaments.
The northern state this week voted to extend Covid restrictions until April 27th using the ‘hotspot’ regulation as a legal basis.
Lauterbach said an overload of the health system can be measured and used to activate the regulation – for instance if scheduled operations have to be postponed or patients transferred.
He also reiterated that hotspots can be an entire federal state.
During the press conference Lauterbach urged people to get vaccinated – and for risk groups to get their second booster shot.
The Health Minister even outlined how Germany is in a different position to countries like the UK.
Unlike in Britain, where the number of cases is also rising, there are five to 10 times as many people over the age of 60 at risk in Germany, he said.