Germany’s health minister said on Friday he believed the country had passed a peak in new daily infections with the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said government measures taken to limit the number of cases had been effective, but he warned against relaxing public health rules too hastily.
“We are not really in safe waters,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Lauterbach, an epidemiologist by training, noted that up to 12% of people over 60 in Germany are still unvaccinated. This share is three to four times higher than for vulnerable unvaccinated populations in comparable countries.
Germany has been slower than many of its neighbors to ease pandemic restrictions. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the country’s 16 state governors agreed Wednesday on a three-step plan to end most of the country’s COVID-19 rules by March 20.
Lauterbach defended the cautious approach, saying “if we open too quickly, the number of cases will rise again.”
He also said a blanket vaccination mandate was still needed, noting that new or existing variants of the virus could lead to a new wave of infections in the fall that could strain the healthcare system.
Germany’s disease control agency on Friday reported 220,048 new daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 264 more deaths.
The Independent Gt