Germany's third wave of the coronavirus could turn into the worst one so far and 100,000 new daily infections is not out of the question, the head of the German Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Friday.
The number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany has jumped in recent weeks, driven by a more transmissible variant of the virus known as B117 and first steps to ease some lockdown restrictions.
"There are clear signals that this wave will be worse than the first two waves," Lothar Wieler said, as he urged people to stay at home over Easter. "We have some very difficult weeks ahead of us."
Health Minister Jens Spahn told the same news conference that Germany was in the final stages of the "pandemic marathon", but warned the country's health system could reach its limit in April.
The number of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 21,573 on Friday, while the death toll increased by 183.
Spahn said a requirement for all airline passengers entering Germany to provide a negative coronavirus test would come into force at midnight on Monday.
He also called on local authorities to take a more flexible approach to vaccination, for example by offering unused vaccine doses to anyone aged over 70 at the weekend and by reducing stocks more quickly.
Frustration has grown over the sluggish rollout. Around 10% of Germans have now received at least a first dose, but this figure remains far lower than in countries like the United States, Britain or Israel.