UPDATES WITH COMMENTS BY GERMAN HEALTH MINISTER
BERLIN (AA) - Germany on Wednesday reported more than 110,000 coronavirus cases in a day, a new record since the pandemic began two years ago.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country's disease control agency, has confirmed 112,323 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 239 coronavirus-related fatalities.
The number of people who are currently sick with COVID-19 climbed to 972,400, a new high in the pandemic's current fifth wave.
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said new infections are likely to increase over the next few weeks.
“I expect that the peak of the current wave will happen in mid-February, and then the number of cases will likely to go down again,” he told RTL television.
The highly contagious omicron variant has been the driving force behind the new surge in cases. According to the RKI’s latest weekly report, the variant accounts for at least 73% of new infections in the country.
Despite the surge in coronavirus infections, most of the cases have been mild so far, not requiring hospitalization.
Germany’s hospitalization rate stood at 3.17 per 100,000 residents Tuesday, much lower than the figures seen in previous waves of the pandemic.
The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) continued to decline this week, according to official data. On Tuesday, 2,744 ICU beds were occupied and around 3,600 beds were free.
However, public health officials are warning that omicron is spreading significantly faster than previous variants and it could swamp the health care system if cases continue to climb dramatically in the coming days.
The German government has stepped up its vaccination campaign and is planning to administer booster shots to all adults over 18 years of age within a few weeks to curb the spread of omicron.
Some 72.8% of the population have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and nearly 47.6% of them had also received their booster shots as of Tuesday, according to official data.
Experts say booster shots are necessary against the omicron variant, as immunity from the initial doses starts wearing off over time. A third dose is providing a high level of protection against the variant, according to preliminary lab studies.