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BERLIN (AA) – A German lawmaker tested positive for the omicron variant of the coronavirus after attending a defense committee meeting, local media reported on Wednesday.
Several lawmakers who attended the meeting received a red alert through the coronavirus warning app after the incident, German news agency DPA said, without revealing the identity of the infected lawmaker.
Lawmakers are wearing masks during parliamentary meetings, but they often take them off while they are speaking.
German health authorities have been warning that the omicron variant is highly transmissible and spreading faster than any previous strain, and the country is likely to see a surge in infections within a few weeks.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's disease control agency, confirmed 45,659 new coronavirus infections and 510 related fatalities on Wednesday.
Health authorities have so far reported 540 confirmed and nearly 1,850 suspected omicron cases in Germany, but experts say the actual number could be much higher.
Lothar Wieler, head of the RKI, told a news conference in Berlin that the omicron cases are doubling every three days, and the variant is expected to become the dominant one within three weeks.
“If we cannot manage to slow the spread of omicron variant with stricter measures, we should expect a high number of infections in a short period of time, which would put our health system under strain,” he said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and premiers of the federal states agreed on tougher restrictions during their video conference meeting 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 would 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.