In Portugal, the corona variant BA.5 is currently causing a sharp increase in infections. The Omikron sibling is already represented in this country, just like BA.4. And according to virologist Sandra Ciesek, they will also prevail here. How we protect ourselves.

The corona pandemic is far from over. This is currently shown by a look at Portugal, where the number of infections has increased significantly in recent weeks. The Omikron variant BA.5 is responsible for this. This will also prevail in Germany, explains virologist Sandra Ciesek on Twitter. The same applies to the other Omikron sister BA.4.

According to the latest report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the two variants still account for a very small proportion of daily new infections. The proportion lay accordingly

This is a low level so far. Nevertheless, BA.5’s share doubled within a week from 1.2 to 2.5 percent.

As virologist Ciesek writes on Twitter, there can be significant regional differences. For example, initial studies by a colleague had already shown a share of more than 15 percent (BA.4 and BA.5 together) in southern Germany. However, since in many regions only some of the samples are sequenced and examined for mutations, it is often not possible to make any precise statements.

It is therefore not yet possible to say when the variants could become dominant. But also World Medical Director Frank Ulrich Montgomery recently told the “Rheinische Post” that he assumes that BA.5 in particular will soon prevail here. Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach also considers this to be realistic. The two variants are “on the rise,” he wrote on Twitter. “This could be the next wave in the fall.”

According to Ciesek, it is not yet possible to say how well vaccination or recovery protects against one of the two new variants. She is therefore in favor of representative tests of the population. “We must continue to monitor whether BA.4/5 changes the clinical course,” she writes. “And what the recovered status was.”

So far, there is no evidence of a heavier disease burden. However, this question has not been finally resolved. However, experts assume that there is a high probability that the variants will at least partially escape the immunity of those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered. “Especially if the previous infection or vaccination was a long time ago, you can become infected again with BA.4 and BA.5,” writes Ciesek. This is supported by the fact that Portugal, where BA.5 predominates, has a very high vaccination rate of 87 percent.

Initial data from those who have recovered from BA.1 showed that there is also “no reliable protection” against infection with BA.4 and BA.5. In general, the two variants are also considered to be more infectious than the BA.2 variant, which is dominant in Germany.

To ensure that risk groups in particular remain protected from the new variants, the virologist, like the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, advises a second booster vaccination for those over 80. In the event of increased virus circulation or a demonstrable decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines, it may be necessary to extend the recommendations to other groups.

For example, when severe courses occur particularly frequently in a certain group. In addition, Ciesek is in favor of a faster adaptation of the vaccine and thus variant-specific vaccines.