Highly infectious coronavirus mutations are making the pandemic "more dangerous," Germany's top disease control official warned at a press conference on Friday.
"The virus isn't tired yet — on the contrary, it just got a boost," Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said on Friday.
The emergence of COVID variants has prompted countries around the world to implement stricter measures and have jeopardized the efforts to ease lockdowns.
What new mutation data was revealed?
Wieler revealed data analyzed from the UK, the Netherlands and Denmark shows the variants are not only more infectious, but that they could lead to more serious illness.
For mutations like the B117 variant that was first identified in the UK, the reproduction rate was found to be 0.5 higher than the normal strain.
"That is a massive number," Wieler said.
The reproduction rate, or "R", indicates the average of people an infected person goes on to infect. If the value goes over 1, the virus spreads exponentially.
How are the variants affecting Germany?
Three "worrying" coronavirus mutations have been logged so far in Germany, Wieler said.
The B117 mutation is the most widespread, comprising 6% of the cases in the country. That figure is expected to rise as the variant is detected "more and more frequently."
The mutations have been detected in 13 out of Germany's 16 states.
Although the number of variant-caused cases is expected to rise, infections in Germany are slowly trending downward.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, who also spoke at the press conference, cautioned that the dip in infections is not dropping quickly enough. He urged the public to continue social distancing and adhere to lockdown restrictions.
Germany's seven-day infection rate sunk to 79.9 infections per 100,000 people on Friday.
rs/rt (dpa, Reuters)