Germany will study how reliable rapid antigen tests are in detecting the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Sunday.
“We do not know exactly how well these tests work for Omicron,” Lauterbach said on public broadcasting channel ARD, adding the results of the assessment would become available within the next few weeks.
It was clear, however, that “the alternative not to test at all … would be far too dangerous,” said Lauterbach, a scientist and physician.
Earlier, he had told a Sunday newspaper that Germany must revamp its COVID-19 vaccination strategy to tackle the Omicron variant and to ensure it can develop a new vaccine rapidly if it faces a more deadly coronavirus variant in the future. New measures for dining out and bar visits were brought in only last Friday.
Omicron now accounts for 44% of coronavirus infections in Germany, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious disease said.
On Sunday, RKI registered 36,552 newly reported corona infections within 24 hours, three times the number a week earlier.
The Bundestag lower house of parliament will soon discuss a draft bill for a general vaccination mandate that is supported by businesses and the public sector, but has been delayed amid uncertainty about united support for it within the three-party coalition government.
Lauterbach, of the Social Democratic Party, strongly advocates obligatory vaccinations and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the libertarian FDP in an interview with Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag also urged parliament to decide on the issue soon.
However, the parliamentary leader of the Green Party, Britta Hasselmann said in an interview with the Funke media group that the parties had to discuss the issue internally first.
“It is not an easy decision, it implies a deep intervention,” she said.