BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - Germany joined countries like Britain, France and Italy in recording more than 100,000 new Covid-19 infections in a single day, and the country's health minister warned that the crest of the wave is still weeks away.
In the latest evidence that the highly contagious Omicron variant is spreading fast across Europe's largest economy, another 112,323 infections were registered after 74,405 the previous day, according to data published on Wednesday (Jan 19) by Germany's public-health institute RKI.
"I think we'll reach the high-point in mid-February, and then the case numbers could go down again, but we're not at the peak yet," Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said late on Tuesday in an interview with RTL television.
The seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people is likely much higher than the official number, which rose to a record of 584.4 on Wednesday, Dr Lauterbach added. "We don't know exactly if it's 1,000, but we will see higher case numbers."
Germany has tightened restrictions on access to restaurants, cafes and bars and pledged to accelerate its relatively sluggish vaccination campaign to battle the Omicron strain.
The new government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refrained so far from resorting to sweeping lockdown measures like shuttering businesses and schools again.
But officials have signalled additional measures might be needed and the country's Parliament is preparing to debate the introduction of mandatory vaccinations.
Dr Lauterbach said a vaccine mandate is needed to avert another wave of infections in the fall, and suggested it could come into effect as early as April once the Bill has been approved by lawmakers. New variants of the virus are likely to appear between now and the fall, he predicted.
As at Tuesday, just under 73 per cent of the German population were fully vaccinated, and almost half had received a booster shot. However, nearly 16 million of those eligible are still yet to get a Covid-19 shot.
Germany's federal government and state leaders agreed recently to allow people to test out of quarantine after one week instead of the current 14 days to avert staff shortages in critical services, while people with a booster shot are exempt from having to isolate.
They made an "urgent recommendation" for wearing particle-filtering FFP-2 masks in stores and on public transport, and agreed to meet again to discuss the need for further measures.