While the pandemic seems to be over in this country, the corona virus is raging in Portugal. Omikron is causing the number of infections there to skyrocket. What does that mean for Germany?

“Corona is not over yet – this is proven by the violent outbreak of omicron in Portugal.” With these words, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, head of the World Medical Association, now called for caution in the “Rheinische Post” about new virus variants.

In Portugal, the number of infections is increasing rapidly. The incidence of infection decreased after a record wave at the end of January. Since the beginning of May, however, the country has reported a significant increase again on average, as a look at a Portuguese data portal shows:

Note: In the past few days, new infections and deaths have fallen slightly again. However, this could also be due to late reports, which is why well-founded statements on the infection process can only be derived a little later. For example, the data portal sometimes only gives values ​​up to May 23rd. The number of deaths could also increase further, as these usually reflect the infection process from one to two weeks ago.

The omicron subvariant BA.5 is responsible for the recent increase in infections in Portugal. It was first detected there at the end of March and, according to the health authorities, now accounts for around 80 percent of new infections.

Just like BA.4, this is considered to be even more infectious than the BA.2 variant, which is dominant in Germany. In addition, according to experts, there is a high probability that it will at least partially escape 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:

The spread of BA.5 was apparently also accelerated by the lifting of many corona measures. In Portugal, the mask requirement indoors has been lifted since April 21. Masks only have to be worn in public transport and medical facilities such as hospitals. In order to stop the rise again, the government has decided to offer free rapid tests in pharmacies again. The reintroduction of the mask requirement is also in the room. It remains to be seen whether that will be enough.

The BA.5 variant is also spreading in Germany – albeit at a low level so far, as the Robert Koch Institute explains in the current weekly report. BA.5’s share recently doubled from 1.2 to 2.5 percent.

As medical director Montgomery told the “Rheinische Post”, the omicron variant BA.5 will continue to spread in this country. “Many, including those who have been vaccinated, will become ill.” Those who have been vaccinated, however, are much milder. The risk of death is 99 percent lower in the vaccinated than in the unvaccinated.

Montgomery therefore called for good preparation for autumn and winter: “The toolbox must be defined and maintained in the Infection Protection Act: from the obligation to wear a mask to the lockdown – uniformly and clearly regulated nationwide,” he said. “The smarter we behave now, the fewer drastic measures we need in autumn and winter. Wear a mask voluntarily wherever many people come together. Vaccination, now more than ever. And don’t play off freedom against security.”

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach also considers it realistic that BA.5 will spread together with its sibling BA.4. The two variants are “on the rise,” he wrote on Twitter. “This could be the next wave in the fall.”