German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, and Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute, address the media…
German Health Minister Jens Spahn, right, and Lothar H. Wieler, left, president of the Robert-Koch-Institute, during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, March 12, 2021. They said the country should prepare for ‘several very challenging weeks’ ahead.

German health officials Friday warned the country is facing a third wave of coronavirus infections, and the so-called British variant of the virus may be responsible.

At a news briefing in Berlin, Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases President Lothar Wieler told reporters the COVID-B117 variant, originally identified in Britain, is spreading very rapidly in the country, and could be driving the latest surge, with new cases Friday the highest Germany has seen in a month.

Wieler said vaccinations would help bring the virus under control but people should continue practicing social distancing and other measures. He said, "the virus won't disappear again, but if we have a base immunity level in the population, we can control the virus.”

At the same news conference, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country should prepare for "several very challenging weeks" ahead.

Spahn expressed regret that some neighboring countries have paused their use of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine following reports of blood clots in some recipients, despite the lack of evidence the shot was responsible.

Spahn said that while Germany takes reports of possible side effects from vaccines "very, very seriously," both the European Medicines Agency ((EMA)) and Germany's own vaccine oversight body have said they have no evidence of an increase in dangerous blood clots in connection with the vaccine.

Denmark announced Thursday it was temporarily suspending use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after reports of blood clots in some people. Austria did the same earlier in the week. After investigating the Austrian cases, the EMA issued a statement Wednesday saying it found no indication the vaccine caused the condition.

The agency said "the vaccine's benefits continue to outweigh its risks and the vaccine can continue to be administered" while a closer evaluation of the blood clot cases continues.

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