Germany warns of new COVID wave this autumn
Germany has warned of a new COVID wave this autumn and approved measures to control the expected increase in infections.
The country's health minister, Karl Lauterbach, ruled out further lockdowns or school closures following a cabinet meeting during which the government approved stricter mask rules on trains and planes from October.
From 1 October to 7 April, N95-type face masks will be required during all long-distance travel by trains, buses and planes.
There will also be a nationwide obligation to wear masks and take a COVID test before entering hospitals, nursing homes and anywhere with vulnerable people.
Justice minister Marco Buschmann said there would be no more schools closing, no matter how severe cases get during the winter.
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He said: "Students were certainly the group that suffered the most in the pandemic ... especially in terms of exercising their right to education, especially in terms of school closures.
"And that’s why I’m also glad that we were able to quickly agree that the instrument of school closures is therefore completely disproportionate.”
On 19 July, the World Health Organization warned of rapidly escalating cases of the virus, especially in Europe where cases tripled in six weeks, and accounted for nearly half of all global cases.
It said the situation will get worse in the autumn and winter and urged countries to act before it was too late.
A statement from the WHO said: "It’s now abundantly clear we’re in a similar situation to last summer – only this time the ongoing COVID-19 wave is being propelled by sub-lineages of the omicron variant, notably BA.2 and BA.5, with each dominant sub-lineage of omicron showing clear transmission advantages over the previously circulating viruses.
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"With rising cases, we’re also seeing a rise in hospitalisations, which are only set to increase further in the autumn and winter months as schools reopen, people return from holidays and social mixing moves indoors with the onset of colder weather.
"This forecast presents a huge challenge to the health workforce in country after country, already under enormous pressure from dealing with unrelenting crises since 2020."
In the UK, COVID-19 infections are currently at their lowest levels in over two months.
The number of patients in hospitals with COVID has also been dropping, although health experts have warned of infections rising as colder temperatures set in.
A new booster jab will be offered to everyone in the UK aged 50 and over from next month, as well as those with underlying health conditions, to increase protection ahead of future waves.
A total of 1.7 million people in private households are estimated to have had COVID in the week to 8 August, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
This is a drop of 34% from the previous estimate of 2.6 million for the week ending 26 July.
Sarah Crofts, head of analytical outputs for the ONS Covid-19 infection survey, said: “Infections have continued to fall across much of the UK to levels last seen in mid-June.
“Our latest data show these decreases are among nearly all ages in England, with the lowest levels seen among children.
“We will continue to monitor the data closely to understand the impact of the summer holidays.”