Wave of Omicron variant infections in Germany: Lauterbach warns, Drosten raises hopes

The number of coronavirus infections in Germany is soaring, hospitals are filling up. Health Minister Lauterbach fears many deaths. In contrast, virologist Drosten sees reason for optimism.

New disease record in Germany

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach is warning of a large number of deaths and overloaded hospitals due to the wave of Omicron variant infections. “We are facing very difficult weeks in Germany,” the SPD politician said in an interview with the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. “We should not feel safe looking at the currently falling number of hospitalizations, especially in intensive care units.”

According to the SPD politician, the situation in the clinics will soon deteriorate again. At the moment, mainly younger people who meet many people get sick. When the elderly become infected, the number of hospitalizations will increase again. “Depending on how the situation develops, we may then run out of places not only in intensive care units, but also in regular wards. There is the threat of closing entire wards,” Lauterbach said.

The Robert Koch Institute reported on Sunday morning another peak in infections in Germany. The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants during the week was 515.7. The day before, the rate was 497.1. Health authorities in Germany reported a total of 52,504 daily coronavirus infections to the Robert Koch Institute. A week ago, 36,552 new infections were reported.

No school closures or lockdowns planned

According to the German Hospital Association (DKG – Deutsche Krankenhausgesellschaft), hospitals are already feeling the first effects of the wave of Omicron variant infections. An increase in the number of admissions of COVID-19 patients is noticeable. “We are already seeing this increase in the usual wards in some regions, for example in Bremen, Berlin, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein,” – Gerald Gaß, president of the German Hospital Association, said in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper. “In contrast to previous waves, in the coming weeks, patients are likely to be admitted more often to the usual wards, because the probability of a severe course of the disease in the case of infection with the Omicron variant is lower,” he explained.

According to Lauterbach, a decision on whether the current restrictions are sufficient will be made at the next Prime Ministers’ Conference scheduled for January 24. However, he opposes closing schools or introducing lockdowns. He prefers a different approach: he wants booster vaccinations to give citizens even more benefits.

The COVID-19 pandemic will soon turn into an endemic?

In contrast, virologist Christian Drosten sees the Omikron variant, which has a milder course of disease, as a chance for the pandemic to be replaced by an endemic. The virologist said in an interview with “Tagesspiegel am Sonntag”: “There would be a chance of that now, provided there is mass immunity.” Drosten said that all people will sooner or later have to become infected with Sars-CoV-2. “In the long run, we can’t keep immunizing the entire population every few months through booster vaccinations.” That’s what the virus has to do,” he said. In his view, the virus must spread, but when the vast majority of the population is vaccinated – otherwise “too many people would die.”

Asked if “we will ever live as we did before the pandemic,” the Charite Clinic virologist replied: “Yes, absolutely. I’m absolutely sure of it.” He added that admittedly, for the next few years, you will still have to wear masks in some situations, which will be annoying. But there will also be “a few benefits”: the virus has contributed to medical advances. “The mRNA technology is a huge breakthrough, also when it comes to cancer and other infectious diseases, if only such as influenza,” Drosten said.

Source: www.spiegel.de

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