It's "highly likely" Germany's intensive care units could reach capacity in as little as four to five weeks as the country battles another runaway Covid surge, a top epidemiologist has warned.
Epidemiologist and Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, Dr Eric Feigl-Ding issued the grim warning after Germany recorded pandemic-high levels of Covid cases this week, with over 34,000 and 37,000 new infections on Thursday and Friday respectively.
This is despite the fact that 66.9 per cent of Germany's population has been fully vaccinated, which puts it on par with the UK (68.1 per cent).
However, if Germany is unable to slow their spread and decrease the amount of patients presenting to hospital, Dr Feigl-Ding predicted health authorities will need to re-enact lockdown measures in December.
"Germany is in trouble – available intensive beds falls to less than 10 per cent in many regions due to Covid-19 hospitalisation surge.
"Overload of the nationwide intensive capacity in Germany is highly likely in about four to five weeks. Lockdown possible in December at this rate."
'This winter is going to be bad'
Germany's increasing cases and reduced hospital capacity has also alarmed their disease and control centre, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
On Thursday the RKI increased their risk assessment for the unvaccinated from "high" to "very high," however President Lothar Wieler added that those fully-vaccinated should also be weary.
"For the fully vaccinated, the risk is assessed as moderate, but increasing due to rising infection rates," he said.
He also credited the "very worrying" fourth wave with the country's flatlining vaccination rates, which has sat around 66 per cent for the last month.
"The fourth wave is developing in exactly the way we feared, because not enough people have received the vaccine," he said.
It was a similar sentiment echoed by Germany's health minister Jens Spahn who called the outbreak a "pandemic of the unvaccinated".
"The pandemic is far from over," he announced on Thursday.
"There would be fewer coronavirus patients on intensive care units if more people would let themselves be vaccinated."
In terms of measures that must be implemented to curb the spread, Dr Feigl-Ding said mask wearing should become another priority for German health authorities.
Quoting a South Korean study published in Science Advances that looked at lowering the spread of Covid on public transport, he said rules for mandatory face coverings could reduce infection rates by 93.5 per cent. When paired with social distancing measures, this further reduced infection rates by 98.1 per cent.
Vaccine boosters – which Germans can access six months after their second vaccine dose – are also needed "urgently," he said.
"We want to end this sooner. And a third shot should be enough for the pandemic if we can act together in concert to end this before this drags into 2023."
While Germany's infections rates are cause for worry, a similar trend is being witnessed across Europe.
This week also saw the WHO's Europe chief express "grave concern" over the rising pace of coronavirus infections in the continent.
According to "one reliable projection," Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge said the current trajectory would mean "another half a million Covid-19 deaths" by February.
Fatalities have also increased, with some 3600 daily deaths registered across the continent.