Germany reported a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, exceeding the 200,000 mark for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the country’s disease control agency, confirmed 203,136 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours and 188 coronavirus-related fatalities.

Health authorities estimate that currently over 1.6 million people are sick with COVID-19, which is an all-time high for the country.

The more infectious omicron variant has been the driving force behind the new surge, according to the institute, and the variant accounts for at least 89% of sequenced coronavirus cases in the country.

Health experts say new infections are likely to increase over the next few weeks and are expected to reach a peak by mid-February.

While the omicron variant causes less severe disease, experts are warning that it is spreading rapidly, and could still overwhelm the healthcare system if cases continue to climb dramatically.

Germany is among the countries hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in Western Europe, and it has the fifth-highest tally of reported cases, behind France, the UK, Italy, and Spain.

The country of 83 million has reported more than 9.2 million infections and nearly 118,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.