BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany has the wave of infections from the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant “well under control” and may consider lifting some restrictions after a peak in late February, its health minister said on Friday.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases reported 190,148 positive tests within 24 hours on Friday, 49,988 more than a week earlier, and 170 deaths in connection with the virus, bringing the death toll to 117,484.
“I often read and hear that politicians lost control over the pandemic. However, this is not the case. We were prepared for the infection numbers we have at the moment – in fact, these are even lower than expected,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach told a news conference.
The number of daily new infections could rise to 400,000 but would then drop again, he said, adding that the protection of older people who have not been vaccinated is the country’s most important task at the moment.
“Germany has a comparatively high number of unvaccinated older people – four times as many as England and three times as many as Italy,” Lauterbach said.
It would be wrong to lift restrictions on aspects of public life now, but it may be possible after the peak in the second half of February or in early March if the Omicron wave remains under control, with few severe cases, he said.
The situation in German intensive-care units, which currently provide for just a little more than 2,000 people, is “acceptable”, government adviser and intensive-care doctor Christian Karagiannidis said.
Lauterbach also said an RKI decision to shorten the validity of the “recovered” status from six to three months is “sensible” as the immunity of people following an Omicron infection is short-lived.
(Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska and Miranda Murray; editing by Mark Heinrich)