In view of the new omicron subvariant BA.5, experts also expect increasing infections over the summer. But this is “not initially a threat,” says virologist Christian Drosten. Appropriate preparations should rather be made with regard to the autumn and winter months.
With regard to the spreading omicron subvariant BA.5, experts expect that the corona virus will not disappear from the scene in the summer. "We are not experiencing an infection-free summer this year, but this is not initially a threat," said the head of Charité virology, Christian Drosten, at the request of the German Press Agency. In autumn and winter there will probably be a long wave of infections.
Medical President Klaus Reinhardt called on the Federal Ministry of Health to coordinate arrangements with the federal states. In the past, the back and forth between those involved had significantly shaken the population's trust in pandemic management, Reinhardt criticized in Berlin.
Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt said "Zeit online": "We should reach an agreement on the goals before the summer break." FDP Vice Wolfgang Kubicki asked Health Minister Karl Lauterbach to prepare the clinics for possible challenges in the fall in good time. The Corona Expert Council gave the minister "a wealth of tasks," said Kubicki to the editorial network Germany (RND).
The day before, the experts had outlined three possible scenarios for autumn and winter and called for an adequate legal basis for quick reactions. How exactly the infection situation will develop by then is difficult to estimate, as the epidemiologist Hajo Zeeb said.
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the seven-day incidence in Germany has been increasing again for a few days, on Thursday it was 276.9. New data on the distribution of the omicron subvariant BA.5 were expected in the RKI weekly report on Thursday evening. Most recently, the proportion had doubled in a sample every week, but still at a low level.
Drosten said he was "somewhat concerned" about developments in Portugal, where not only the incidence but also the number of deaths increased. "There are no obvious explanations for this, because other European countries also have BA.5 increases without an increase in mortality. In a month we will know whether something similar is also happening here."
From Zeeb's point of view, the situation in Portugal should also be a warning for Germany. "In neighboring Spain, however, the numbers have not risen as much, which indicates that regional circumstances, vaccination processes and immunity and protective behavior definitely play a role." In this respect, he does not expect an increase in incidence up to the very high values that were reached in the first omicron wave. Regardless of whether there is a summer corona wave or not, preparations for the fall would have to be made anyway, said Bonn virologist Hendrik Streeck on Wednesday evening on ARD. Politicians have many protective instruments such as vaccination and masks at hand.
In his own words, Drosten expects “another long-lasting wave of infections” in autumn and winter, with a particularly large number of lost work days as a result if no interventions have taken place in the meantime. There are two reasons for this: "Firstly, the majority of the population will lose protection against transmission by the autumn, especially since the transmittance of the variants that are now circulating is even higher. Secondly, politicians will initially use fewer controls because of the vaccination success achieved." Drosten assumes that there will be many cases by October at the latest. Unlike a severe flu epidemic, this could last until March and put a strain on personnel-sensitive areas.
"It will be difficult to mitigate this with a vaccination campaign alone," explained the virologist. Those who are not yet vaccinated should “once again be encouraged to do so”. Drosten advised older people and people who belong to a risk group to talk to their doctor about a refresher. Lauterbach expects vaccines adapted to the Omicron variants in the fall. He doesn't expect it until September at the earliest, said the SPD politician on Deutschlandfunk. This is being worked on intensively. There is promising data from Moderna, and they are also in contact with Biontech.
The company Moderna presented the first data on the effectiveness of its adapted corona vaccine on Wednesday. "mRNA-1.273.214", as the booster is called, is a combination of the original Moderna vaccine Spikevax and a vaccine candidate specially tailored to the omicron variant. In the total of 437 subjects in the clinical study who had received the new preparation as a second booster, the scientists found significantly more neutralizing antibodies after one month than after a booster vaccination with the conventional preparation, especially against the omicron variant. The vaccination is well tolerated, side effects correspond to those after the conventional booster.