“The predicted summer wave has unfortunately become reality,” Lauterbach told the Rheinische Post on Wednesday. “This also means little relief for the next few weeks.”
Lauterbach said the seasonal effect that usually sees Covid infections drop during the summer months was already fizzling out.
One reason for this is that the circulating subtype of the Omicron variant of Covid is very transmissible. Plus, almost all Covid measures have been dropped in Germany meaning that people are mixing a lot more than other Covid years, Lauterbach said.
“I therefore strongly recommend that older people and those who have previously been ill get vaccinated again,” he said. This may not prevent an infection, but it will prevent severe courses of the illness, he added.
According to the Health Ministry, 5.2 million people in Germany have received a second booster jab so far – 6.3 percent of the population.
It comes as infections are rising steeply. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the nationwide 7-day incidence on Wednesday morning was 472.4 infections per 100,000 people, almost twice as high as a week ago.
However, the incidence does not provide a complete picture of the infection situation. Experts have believed for some time that there is a high number of cases going unrecorded in Germany.
Lauterbach also called on people in Germany to voluntarily wear masks when in indoor public spaces, even though many mandatory mask requirements have been dropped. Wearing masks indoors and getting a fourth jab are “the best antidotes” against the virus, he said on Twitter.
Eine Sommerwelle war zu erwarten. Freiwilliges Tragen von Masken im Innenraum und eine 4. Impfung sind die besten Gegenmittel. Die vierte Impfung schützt vor schwerer Krankheit und senkt für ein paar Monate, wenn auch unvollständig, Ansteckungsrisiko. Das hilft jetzt sehr vielen https://t.co/VfZACYojeW
— Prof. Karl Lauterbach (@Karl_Lauterbach) June 14, 2022
READ ALSO: Germany’s current Covid mask rules
Omicron subtype BA.5 spreads rapidly
The spread of the Omicron subtype BA.5 is fuelling the increase in Covid cases.
Based on the speed at which it has spread so far, BA.5 is expected to account for 40 to 50 percent of Covid infections in Germany this week, said Michael Müller, chairman of the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM).
He expects the virus to continue spreading until around mid-July and the number of infections to remain high as a result. In countries like Portugal, the subtype has already caused a new wave.
Epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs from the Akkon University of Human Sciences in Berlin said: “The BA.5 sub-variant is even more infectious than all previous variants, so it can spread even under the adverse conditions for the virus in summer.”
Moreover, according to research, BA.5 can evade the immune system even if it has already had contact with Omicron variants, Ulrichs warns.
Data does not suggest, however, that BA.5 infections cause more severe illness than other Omicron subtypes, although vulnerable groups face higher risks.
Dirk Heinrich, chairman of the Virchowbund, which represents doctors, also called for people to get vaccinated.
“Those who have not yet been vaccinated should get vaccinated now to avoid serious illness,” Heinrich told the Rheinische Post.