In Portugal, the omicron variant BA.5 recently caused a sharp increase in infections. This is also spreading in this country. Virologist Martin Stürmer calls for a safe autumn strategy and emphasizes that Corona should not just be allowed to run its course.

While the number of infections in Germany is at a low level, the corona virus is currently raging in Portugal. In the popular holiday destination, the numbers have recently increased significantly again. The omicron variant BA.5, which is also spreading in Germany, is responsible for the outbreak. This fuels the fear that it could trigger another outbreak in this country. “Corona is not over yet – this is proven by the violent outbreak of omicron in Portugal,” warned Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the World Medical Association, recently in the “Rheinische Post”.

Virologist Martin Stürmer is also concerned about this development. In an interview with “Hessenschau” he points out the lack of immune protection against BA.5. “At the moment it seems that those who have recently contracted BA.2 are quite immune to BA.5. But all those who were infected with BA.1 or older variants a long time ago can become infected and become more seriously ill again,” he warns. The same applies to the vaccination: “It protects less the longer it is back.”

Martin Stürmer is a virologist and lecturer in virology at the University of Frankfurt. He also runs a private laboratory for interdisciplinary medicine and diagnostics.

BA.5 is considered more infectious than previous variants. According to experts, BA.5 also has a high probability of at least partially escaping the immunity of those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered. This is supported by the fact that Portugal has a very high vaccination rate:

Striker calls for special protection of risk patients in Germany. “We have to sit down and make sure that the risk patients keep their vaccinations up to date – at least with the vaccine that we have available,” he emphasizes.

He recommends another vaccination after three months. “People who are at high risk of a severe course should look: How long ago was my vaccination, my booster, my recovery?” If there were more than three months in between, the vaccination protection should be refreshed.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone should be vaccinated now. “It currently makes no sense for the general population to panic and rush to the vaccination centers en masse,” said the virologist. Instead, he calls on the government to decide on a suitable strategy for the fall – “if possible with the adapted vaccine.”

Biontech plans to launch one of these in late summer or early fall. This is aimed at Omikron variants – but not at the currently increasing BA.5. “It is to be feared that it does not protect optimally against a BA.5 infection,” says Stürmer. Nevertheless, he remains optimistic: “I’m pretty sure that with this vaccine we will also have very good protection against severe courses and deaths and possibly also higher protection against omicron infections compared to previous vaccines.”

According to the latest report by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), BA.5 still accounts for a very small proportion of daily new infections. The proportion lay accordingly

This is a low level so far. Nevertheless, the share of BA.5 doubled within a short time:

Striker therefore expects the next wave of infections in the coming months. However, this should not be as pronounced as last autumn and winter. The virologist does not expect a massive impairment to our everyday life, he says.

On the one hand, how much the numbers would increase in the coming autumn depends on whether even more dangerous variants emerge. On the other hand, it depends on how society positions itself. He fully supports Health Minister Karl Lauterbach’s proposal to start a new vaccination campaign. “In any case, I would advise choosing a combination of vaccines that covers all variants – as long as it is on the market by then,” says Stürmer. He also thinks that measures such as a return to the mask requirement make sense. After all, this is “a very simple, proven means of reducing the risk of transmission – in addition to vaccinations”. According to the striker, we could get through the autumn and winter well with that.

Because in addition to the acute risk of infection, there are other dangers, such as the development of long-Covid in many patients. “For reasons like this, you should just be careful and not just let the infection process run its course,” summarizes Stürmer.