Germany is experiencing a new wave of coronavirus infections, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said today, urging the most vulnerable to get their fourth vaccination jabs.

It comes as the number of people in Irish hospitals testing positive for Covid-19 rose by 18 overnight to reach 459. Of these, 26 are being treated in ICU.

Around half of patients are incidental cases who are admitted for other conditions.

Minister Lauterbach told a German newspaper: "The announced summer wave [of Covid-19] has unfortunately become reality."

After weeks of falling new infections, the numbers of cases in Europe's biggest economy are seeing an uptick again.

He added that "because the current virus variant is very easily transmitted and almost all precautionary measures have expired", the effect of the summer in calming a surge in infections was not as effective.

Face masks should once again be worn indoors to prevent transmission, added the health minister.

Germany's seven-day incidence rate of new infections per 100,000 people reached 472.4 today.

Europe's biggest economy began easing coronavirus curbs, including letting unvaccinated people back into shops and restaurants, and allowing larger gatherings, from March.

The requirement for employees to work from home whenever possible was also lifted in the same month.

The wearing of medical masks was removed from schools and offices, but remains mandatory on public transport.

Meanwhile Shanghai's long shutdown over Covid-19, which brought food shortages and protests to the Chinese city, has driven some to reconsider staying in a country where livelihoods and lifestyles can vanish at the whim of the state.

Schools have been closed and exams called off, including assessments for applying to American universities.

But as more people consider ways to leave, Beijing has doubled down on strict exit policies for Chinese citizens.

All "unnecessary" travel out of the country has been banned. Passport renewals have been all but halted, with authorities blaming the risk of Covid being carried into the country.