BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s disease control agency on Tuesday called for tougher restrictions to prevent a new surge in coronavirus infections.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said stricter rules were now necessary to fight the omicron variant, which is spreading faster than any previous strain and could become the dominant variant in the country within a few weeks.
“The omicron variant is highly transmissible, people who have been fully vaccinated, or recovered from the virus could also be infected, and they can transmit the virus to others,” the institute said in a new strategy paper.
It appealed to the public to reduce social contacts to a minimum during the Christmas holiday season and refrain from traveling unless absolutely necessary.
The RKI’s experts recommended the implementation of tighter restrictions at least until mid-January, including cancelling mass gatherings and closing bars, clubs and restaurants.
Universities were advised to switch to remote learning, and people recommended to work from home wherever possible.
Germany’s fourth wave has stabilized over the past week, with daily cases falling to nearly 40,000 on average, but authorities have been alarmed by the rapid spread of omicron in neighboring countries.
Health authorities have so far reported 112 confirmed and 213 suspected omicron cases in Germany, but experts say the actual number could be much higher.
Germany’s genome sequencing remains low as less than 2% of all positive PCR tests are sent to labs to identify virus variants, according to latest data.