After it had already caused the corona numbers to skyrocket in Portugal, the proportion of the Omicron variant BA.5 is also slowly increasing here. According to experts, it will prevail by autumn at the latest. Immunologist Carsten Watzl explains how we then have to react.
In Germany, the number of infections has been at a relatively low level for weeks. Instead, the corona virus raged in Portugal. The number of corona cases there has recently increased significantly again. The Omikron variant BA.5 is responsible for this. It is considered more infectious and could also escape the immune response. And according to experts, it could soon overtake the current BA.2 variant in Germany as well.
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:
“We know that omicron is very contagious. The variant BA.2 is currently predominant with us and BA.5 is a tick more contagious and that is why BA.5 can also prevail with us”, for example immunologist Carsten Watzl assessed the situation. In an interview with “Bayern 2” he explained , so he expects comparatively high incidences in summer.
Virologist Martin Stürmer is also expecting the next wave of infections in the coming months. However, this should not be as pronounced as last autumn and winter, he said “Hessenschau”.
And virologist Sandra Ciesek also recently explained on Twitter that she assumes that the BA.5 variant will prevail here sooner or later. However, the same could also apply to its sister variant BA.4.
It is 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 recently wrote on Twitter. “This could be the next wave in the fall.”
According to the experts, it is all the more important to take suitable measures for the autumn now.
Vaccinations: “At the moment it seems that those who have recently been infected with BA.2 are quite immune to BA.5,” said the virologist Stürmer, assessing the current situation. “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.” Striker is therefore in favor of a fourth vaccination for risk groups. In addition, for a later fourth vaccination for the rest of the population – “if possible with the adapted vaccine.”
Immunologist Watzl also sees vaccination as the best protection against a serious illness. “Anyone who has had a triple vaccination and is otherwise healthy no longer has to be very afraid of this virus, one should still have respect.” The question, however, is whether a fourth vaccination for risk people is already sensible or not only in autumn, when there is an adapted vaccine. According to Watzl, science is currently waiting for data on adapted vaccines that will be available in the next few weeks.
Measures: According to Watzl, other measures will be important in addition to vaccination in autumn: The immunologist advises preparing for a possible new wave now. Watzl advocates targeted measures:
“It’s not about preventing the infection in the general population, but rather specifically. That means: compulsory wearing of badges in very specific areas of public life, where people who have risk factors have to go, i.e. in pharmacies, when shopping, in care facilities, etc., not necessarily in schools.”
Watzl also sees a need to catch up when it comes to treating infected people. “We have already learned a lot and we will also get new medication. And I think that can still be improved.”
And virologist Stürmer also spoke out in favor of measures in the fall. He thinks it makes sense to return to the mask requirement. 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.