People walk past a sign reminding them to wear the mandatory face mask in downtown Munich on March 4, 2021. (Photo by Alexander Pohl / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Alexander Pohl NurPhoto via Getty Images

LONDON – The head of the German health department warned on Friday that a third wave of coronavirus infections had already started.

It comes at a time when the country has started to gradually relax lockdown restrictions amid government efforts to accelerate the introduction of vaccinations to as many adults as possible.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously warned that the country could enter a third wave of infections if restrictive public health measures were lifted too quickly.

Italy is reportedly set to impose another near-national lockdown over the Easter weekend to curb the spread of the virus.

The move, which is expected to be signed on Friday, comes just over a year after it became the first country in the world to impose nationwide lockdown measures.

What’s going on in Germany?

“We have clear signs: the third wave in Germany has already started,” Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, told reporters during a press conference on Friday.

“The virus is not going to go away, but once we have basic immunity in the population we can control it,” he added.

Wieler said he was “very concerned” about the public health crisis. He described the German vaccination campaign as a race against an ever-evolving virus, but expressed confidence that the country could ultimately bring the virus under control.

Up until this point, Wieler reiterated the importance of people wearing face masks in public and keeping a safe distance from others.

Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the 215th session of the Bundestag. Topics include the epidemic situation of national scope and the impact of the lockdown on the economy.

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The RKI announced on Thursday that the number of confirmed Covid cases had increased by 14,356 over a period of 24 hours, the highest daily number recorded in Germany in the last two weeks. This corresponds to an increase of 2,444 cases compared to the previous week.

The recent boom coincides with the spread of a highly infectious variant of the virus, first discovered in the UK. It was found that the variant known as B.1.1.7 accounts for over 46% of new infections nationwide.

To date, according to the Johns Hopkins University in Germany, more than 2.5 million people with 73,127 deaths have contracted Covid.

Italy faces an Easter lock

The government of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi held talks with regional governments and local authorities from March 15 to April 6 to discuss stricter health measures, the Italian news agency ANSA reported on Friday, citing unnamed sources.

As part of these measures, Italy is expected to fight the spread of the virus by moving almost the entire country to its so-called “red zone” from April 3-5, including Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

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The red zone is the maximum level of restriction in Italy’s tiered coronavirus system. Schools, non-essential shops, restaurants and bars will be closed at this level.

Sardinia, a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, is currently the only region in the country’s white zone. This decision, announced on March 1, means that many measures to contain the spread of the virus in the area have been halted.

At the national level, the total number of Covid infections in Italy last week was over 3 million, mainly due to the rapid spread of variant B.1.1.7. So far, Italy has recorded 3.1 million Covid cases and 101,184 deaths.