COVID Infection Rate in Germany Likely 2 to 3 Times Higher Than Data Shows, Official Says

Germany's COVID-19 infection rate is likely two to three times higher than current data indicates, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said Wednesday.

While recent statistics show that case numbers are going down after the country's Delta-driven surge, officials have said that data from the Christmas and New Year's holiday period is likely incomplete because of less testing and delays in reporting test results.

Official data released by Germany on Wednesday reported 40,043 new cases over the past 24 hours and an infection rate of 205.5 new infections per 100,000 people during the past seven days.

Lauterbach said that underreporting of virus cases likely means that "the actual incidence is currently two or three times as high as the incidence we are measuring." He also cited a rise in cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant that "causes us concern."

Germany's Robert Koch Institute confirmed the nation's first Omicron death last week, Reuters reported.

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Germany’s COVID-19 infection rate is likely two to three times higher than current data indicates, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said Wednesday. Above, Lauterbach speaks during a news conference following a meeting with the minister president of Lower Saxony on December 17 in Hanover, central Germany. Ronny Hartmann/AFP via Getty Images

At the same time, neighboring France is reporting record numbers fueled by the Omicron variant.

Lauterbach said there is a "shortfall" in staff that "becomes particularly noticeable" over holiday periods at local health offices, a key part of Germany's reporting chain. He said that improving that situation will be a "central task" for him in the coming year.

Lauterbach advised Germans to spend the New Year's period "very cautiously" and celebrate only in very small groups. Restrictions that took effect over recent days included limiting private gatherings to 10 people. Large-scale New Year's celebrations have been canceled and the sale of fireworks banned.

He said he's sure that there will be "solid and sufficient" data on infections by the time Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany's 16 state governors confer on the way forward in the pandemic on January 7.

Lauterbach noted that Germany's vaccination campaign has kicked back into gear after a brief Christmas lull and appealed to people who haven't yet received a booster to book an appointment. So far, 71 percent of the population has received a full first vaccination course and 37.3 percent has received a booster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Germany COVID
Official data released by Germany on Wednesday reported 40,043 new cases over the past 24 hours and an infection rate of 205.5 new infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days. Above, a man wearing a face mask walks past a sign indicating the direction toward a coronavirus testing center in Berlin on December 29. John MacDougall/AFP via Getty Images