3/3 © Reuters. COVID-19 vaccination center in a former ice stadium in Berlin 2/3
BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany will have the coronavirus pandemic under control by the end of the year, but a new, rapidly spreading strain of the virus risks exacerbating the situation, the public health chief said on Thursday. Germany has so far recorded 16 cases of people with a strain of the virus first detected in Britain and four with the South African strain, Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Health Institute, said at a news conference. All the cases so far correspond to people who had traveled abroad, he said. These will not be the last variations to be seen, he said, also referring to a new variant of coronavirus found in Brazil. “We will have more variations … Therefore, do not travel.” Wieler urged people who were offered a COVID-19 vaccine to accept it to ease tension in hospitals, and said people should respect social distance and hygiene rules. “At the end of the year we will have this pandemic under control,” Wieler said. Then there would be enough vaccines available to inoculate the entire population, he said. The German cabinet on Wednesday approved stricter controls on people entering the country after the national lockdown was tightened last week and extended through the end of January. Health Minister Jens Spahn has said some restrictions are likely to last until February. Wieler said the restrictions were not being enforced as consistently as they were during the first wave and said more people should work from home. Hospitals in 10 of Germany’s 16 states face bottlenecks, as 85% of the beds in their intensive care units were used by coronavirus patients, he added. He said wearing heavy-duty respirator masks, also known as FFP2, could help protect against 94% of particles, but only if used correctly. The state of Bavaria has made FFP2 masks on public transport and in stores mandatory from Monday. On Thursday, the RKI reported 25,164 new coronavirus cases and 1,244 deaths, a record, bringing the total death toll in Germany since the start of the pandemic to 43,881, the tally showed.