Germany should brace for a surge in coronavirus cases at the beginning of next month due to the rapidly spreading omicron variant, the health minister warned on Thursday.
“We have not yet witnessed a big, rapid wave of omicron in our country, thank goodness. But the situation will change at the end of the year and in the first week of January,” Karl Lauterbach told public radio WDR2.
He called on citizens to strictly follow anti-coronavirus measures during the Christmas holiday season, and get their COVID-19 booster jab to protect themselves against the omicron variant.
The Robert Koch Institute, the country's disease control agency, confirmed on Thursday 44,927 new daily coronavirus infections and 425 disease-related fatalities.
Health authorities have so far reported 3,198 omicron cases in Germany, but experts say the actual number could be much higher.
At least one person died after testing positive for omicron, and 48 patients have received treatment at hospitals.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and premiers of the federal states agreed on tougher restrictions on Tuesday, which will come into effect on Dec. 28 at the latest.
According to the new rules, large-scale sports events like football matches will take place without spectators. Major public parties and gatherings will be banned on New Year's Eve. For private gatherings, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed to meet indoors or outdoors, if everyone is vaccinated or recovered.