The rapid growth of the omicron variant of coronavirus is threatening to cripple already overwhelmed hospitals in Germany, a hospital union warned on Monday.
German Hospital Federation chairman Gerald Gass said hospitals were already strained due to the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and would be pushed to their limits if the omicron variant spurs a more aggressive fifth wave in the coming weeks.
“Studies show that the omicron variant is more contagious than the delta variant, and vaccine protection is lower without a booster shot,” he told daily Rheinischen Post.
“If forecasts hold true, in the worst-case scenario, we will have a very large number of seriously ill patients,” he said.
There were 4,621 seriously ill coronavirus patients in intensive care units across the country on Sunday, with 2,634 of them on ventilators, according to the DIVI association for emergency medicine.
Germany’s fourth wave have stabilized over the past week, with daily cases falling to nearly 40,000 on average, after the government imposed tougher restrictions.
But authorities were alarmed this time by the rapid spread of the omicron variant in European and neighboring countries.
Germany declared the UK an “area of variants of concern” on Monday and tightened rules for travelers from this country.
Only German citizens and residents with a negative PCR test will be allowed to enter the country from the UK, according to the new rules. They will need to go into a two-week quarantine after arrival in Germany, irrespective of their vaccination status.
Neighboring countries France and Denmark were classified as “high-risk areas”. Travelers from these countries will need to self-isolate for ten days if they cannot submit a proof of vaccination or recovery. The quarantine period may be ended after five days at the earliest with a current negative COVID-19 test.