Germany’s health minister has said he thinks the country has passed the peak of new daily infections with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Karl Lauterbach said government measures taken to curb the number of cases had been effective, but he warned against relaxing the public health rules too hastily.
“We are not really in safe waters,” he told reporters in Berlin.
Mr Lauterbach, an epidemiologist by training, noted that as many as 12% of people over age 60 in Germany are still unvaccinated.
That share is three to four times higher than for the unvaccinated vulnerable populations in comparable countries.
Germany has been slower than many of its neighbours to relax pandemic restrictions. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and the country’s 16 state governors agreed on Wednesday on a three-step plan to end most of the country’s Covid-19 rules by March 20.
Mr Lauterbach defended the cautious approach, saying that “if we open too quickly, then the case numbers will rise again”.
He also said a general vaccine mandate was still necessary, noting that new or existing variants of the virus could lead to a fresh wave of infections in the autumn that could put a severe strain on the health system.
Germany’s disease control agency on Friday reported 220,048 newly confirmed daily cases of Covid-19 and 264 additional deaths.
Germany announced on Friday that it was taking almost 20 countries off its list of high-risk areas, including Britain, India, Spain and the United States. The move will make it easier for some travellers coming from those countries to enter Germany.
Previously, people who were not deemed to be fully vaccinated had to quarantine for at least five days upon arrival.