Germany’s Health Minister has warned that a rapid rise in coronavirus cases means it’s likely everyone in the country who isn’t vaccinated will have caught COVID-19 by the end of winter — and some of those will die.
- Daily COVID-19 cases doubled to 30,000 this week, exhausting hospitals’ ICU capacity
- About 68 per cent of Germany’s population of 83 million is fully vaccinated
- Jens Spahn says Germans will likely be vaccinated, recovered or dead by the end of winter
The country recorded more than 30,000 new cases in the latest 24-hour reporting period, up about 50 per cent compared to last week.
This week, the country is expected to pass 100,000 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Hospitals say ICU capacities are nearly exhausted, with some patients having to be transferred to clinics in other parts of Germany.
To reduce the risk of serious illness, minister Jens Spahn urged Germans to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if their first round of inoculation occurred more than six months ago.
Mr Spahn acknowledged some would consider this view to be cynical.
“But it’s true. With the highly contagious Delta variant, this is very, very likely. And that’s why we are recommending vaccination so urgently,” he added.
Mr Spahn said 50 million doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines would be made available for the rest of the year, to allow people to get first, second or third shots as necessary.
To achieve this, Germany is holding back tens of millions of doses originally intended for poor countries, and those missing doses will be provided at a later date.
Some politicians in Germany say the country may need to consider compulsory vaccinations, like its neighbour Austria.
Only about 68 per cent of Germany’s population of 83 million is fully vaccinated.
The German government wants to push that rate above 75 per cent to effectively curb the spread of the virus, but a sizeable minority in the population has resisted calls to take the shot.
Karl Lauterbach, a prominent MP with the centre-left Social Democrats, called for a “radical” application of rules requiring people to present vaccination or recovery certificates to access some stores and public places.
“A general vaccine mandate (shouldn’t be) taboo either,” he said on Twitter.
Bavaria’s conservative governor, Markus Soeder, said he also favoured mandatory vaccines for all.
Mr Soeder acknowledged such a move would infringe on civil liberties, but argued this needed to be balanced against the need to protect the health of the population and preserve other freedoms.
But a spokesman for outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that her government had no plans to tackle the thorny issue of vaccine mandates.
“There is no decision about this now and it wouldn’t be taken by this government anymore,” Steffen Seibert said.
A centre-left coalition of three parties is expected to finalise negotiations on forming a government in early December.
Bavaria, which required all citizens to get vaccinated against smallpox in 1807, currently has the second-highest COVID-19 infection rates, behind Saxony in the country’s the north-east.
The doctors’ association there said Saxony needed to prepare for a system of triage to manage the few remaining ICU beds in the state.
Gernot Marx, head of Germany’s intensive care association DIVI, said many hospitals in hard-hit regions had begun postponing scheduled surgery.
He noted the country had about 4,000 fewer ICU beds available than a year ago because large numbers of medical staff quit their jobs due to pandemic-related stress.
Steffen Weber-Carstens, a senior doctor at Berlin’s Charite hospital, said the city of 3.6 million had only 89 free ICU beds left on Monday.
Despite high infection rates among children, schools remain open.
Mr Spahn said he expected the European Union to approve vaccines against COVID-19 for children aged between 5 and 11 at the end of the week.
The EU will begin shipping vaccines for younger children on December 20, with Germany initially getting 2.4 million doses.