The head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, the country’s national public health organization, says it is likely the variant of the coronavirus recently identified in Britain has already made its way to Germany.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Berlin, Lothar Wieler said that while he has not heard of any actual case in Germany, he said they know the strain was first found in Britain in September and has since been discovered in the Netherlands and Denmark. He said that means the likelihood of it being in Germany already but undiscovered, is probably “very, very high.”
The discovery of the new variant has prompted many nations to ban air travel from Britain. On Monday, officials with the World Health Organization (WHO) said that while there may be evidence the variant spreads more quickly, there is no evidence it is severer or deadlier.
WHO officials said virus variations are common, and the best way to prevent them is to prevent transmissions.
Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of BioNTech, co-creator of the first coronavirus vaccine approved for use in Europe, said, “Scientifically, it is highly likely” that the immune response created by their vaccine also can deal with the new variant. But he cautioned the new variant has nine mutations and they do not know for sure if the vaccine will also provide protection against it.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the continent’s drug regulator, gave initial approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Monday, and Europe Union officials say they expect vaccinations to begin December 27.
Wieler said the EMA approval of the vaccine is good news, but the shots will not change the overall situation for a very long time. He urged people to continue limiting contacts with others as the virus continues to spread in the country.