“We have very clear indications for the fact that the third wave has already begun in Germany,” said RKI boss Lothar Wieler.
“I am very worried,” he said in conversation with journalists in Geneva, adding that it was important that people kept wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance from other people.
On Thursday, 14,356 new confirmed infections were recorded in a 24-hour period, an increase of 2,444 on the previous week and a level not seen since the beginning of February.
The 7-day incidence also rose from 65.4 to 69.1 infections for every 100,000 residents of Germany. A month ago the 7-day incidence was 64.2 per 100,000 inhabitants.
A further 321 deaths were recorded, while intensive care occupancy was at 2,736 beds, down from 5,762 at the high point in winter.
At the last lockdown summit the federal states and the government agreed upon a tentative re-opening of the economy, but they tied it to the 7-day incidence level.
If the incidence rates were to rise significantly to a level above 100, it could lead regional governments to “pull an emergency brake” and shut businesses back down.
Wieler said on Thursday that Germany’s vaccine campaign was a race against new, more transmissible, variants of the virus.
“We see effects already in those who are over 80. The incidence is on the decline, tremendously,” he said.
He expressed confidence that 80 percent of the population could be immunized by the autumn as long as constant supplies of the vaccines were maintained.
“If we achieve that then we can lift all of the measures.”