BERLIN (Reuters) – The third wave of the coronavirus in Germany could be the worst yet and the possibility of 100,000 new infections a day is not ruled out, the director of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) said on Friday.
The number of new confirmed infections in Germany has risen in recent weeks, fueled by a more transmissible variant known as B117 and is moving to ease some lockdown measures.
“There are clear signs that this wave will be worse than the first two,” said RKI’s Lothar Wieler, urging people to stay home for Easter. “We have some very difficult weeks ahead of us.”
The RKI subsequently issued COVID-19 travel advisories for several neighboring countries, including France, Austria, Denmark, and the Czech Republic.
People arriving from those countries must now submit a negative test less than 48 hours old at the German border. They must then go into a 10-day quarantine, which can be shortened with a second negative test after 5 days.
Health Minister Jens Spahn said that Germany was in the final stages of the “pandemic marathon” but that the country’s health system could reach its limit in April.
The number of new confirmed cases in Germany rose by 21,573 on Friday, while the death toll rose by 183.
Spahn said the requirement that all airline passengers entering Germany submit a negative test would take effect at midnight Monday.
He called on local authorities to take a more flexible approach to vaccination, for example offering unused doses to anyone over the age of 70 over the weekend and reducing stocks more quickly.
Frustration has been increased by the slow launch of the vaccine. About 10% of Germans have received at least a first dose, but this is much lower than in the United States, Great Britain or Israel.
Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Giles Elgood