Visitors to the Dortmund Christmas market in western Germany on November 22, 2021. Some German federal states have canceled their Christmas markets due to the Covid crisis.
INA FASSBENDER | AFP | Getty Images
Germany’s health minister issued a stern warning to the country’s public, telling citizens that vaccination was key to their survival.
“Some would say it’s cynical but probably by the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead… That’s the reality,” Jens Spahn said at a conference release in Berlin on Monday.
Blaming “the highly contagious delta variant” for the rapid spike in infections in the country, which is believed to be its fourth pandemic wave, Spahn said “this is why we urgently recommend vaccination.”
Germany plans to implement tougher Covid-19 measures and even a partial lockdown like its neighbor, the Netherlands, as cases skyrocket. As of Monday, more than 30,000 new cases were recorded, according to the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Meanwhile, Germany has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe with 68% of its adult population fully vaccinated, but only 7% having received a booster. Boosters are needed because we know that the immunity offered by vaccines wanes after about six months.
Spahn told the Germans not to be picky about the vaccine they wanted to receive, saying that “some vaccine doctors say BioNTech is the Mercedes of vaccines and Moderna is the Rolls-Royce,” Deutsche Welle reported.
“There are enough vaccines for all upcoming vaccinations,” Spahn said. “And both vaccines work.”
Germany is rolling out both the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (BioNTech is a German company and Germans tend to prefer this vaccine) as well as the Moderna vaccine, the AstraZeneca-University of Oxford vaccine and the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson ).
Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health, on his way to the presentation of the National Reserve Health Protection at the federal press conference on July 21, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.
Andreas Gora | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Covid vaccines significantly reduce the risk of serious infection, hospitalization and death, but some countries in Europe have experienced greater reluctance to be vaccinated than others. And there is now growing segregation when it comes to access to public spaces for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel also issued her own warning to the country on Monday, saying that the current Covid rules were “not enough” to stop the fourth wave and that stronger action must be taken.
“We have a very dire situation – the current rules are not enough,” Merkel said at a meeting of leaders of her conservative Christian Democratic Union party, Reuters reported.
After meeting with the leaders of Germany’s 16 federal states, which largely determined their own measures to respond to Covid during the pandemic, Merkel called on state prime ministers to decide on tougher restrictions by Wednesday.
Germany has already implemented stricter Covid rules in recent days. Last Thursday, Merkel and the country’s 16 state prime ministers agreed on a new package of measures to tackle the virus, with restrictions introduced for unvaccinated people in areas of the country where hospital admissions exceed a certain threshold.
Merkel noted at the time that “many of the measures we are announcing would not be necessary if more people were vaccinated.” She said the country was also considering making vaccinations for hospital staff mandatory and free Covid testing would resume.
Several states and cities have already imposed stricter rules requiring the public to show Covid passes, which have an individual’s vaccine status or if they have just recovered from the virus (also widely known as ” 2G rules ”as they refer to whether people are vaccinated -“ geimpft ”in German – or recovered,“ genesen ”) in order to access bars, restaurants and other public places like cinemas or museums.
The last wave of Europe
Germany is not alone in seeing a rapid increase in Covid cases as winter approaches, with Europe as a whole experiencing a surge in infections, prompting many countries to tighten the rules.
Austria reimposed a full lockdown with citizens invited to work from home and non-essential shops closed, while the Netherlands’ partial lockdown sees bars and restaurants closed at 8 p.m. (among other rules) and is expected to last until early December, although it may be extended.
Many countries are increasingly relying on Covid passes to keep leisure activities and businesses open, although critics say they are isolating companies based on vaccination lines.
Read more: Protests against Covid rules and lockdowns erupt across Europe
Europe has been rocked by protests in recent weeks against further restrictions, with protests erupting in Brussels, Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam over the weekend.
The Covid crisis in the region has not escaped the US, which only recently lifted an international travel ban that banned visitors from 33 countries, including the UK and much of Europe. . On Monday, the US State Department warned Americans not to travel to Germany due to the “very high level of Covid-19 in the country”.
The advisory came after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement to “avoid traveling to Germany. If you have to travel to Germany, make sure you are fully vaccinated before traveling.”
“Due to the current situation in Germany, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk of contracting and spreading variants of Covid-19,” the CDC warned. The same level of travel warning applies to the UK, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark and Norway, among other European countries.