Public Health

Germany’s warning to its people

Visitors to the Christmas market in Dortmund on November 22nd, 2021. Some federal states have canceled their Christmas markets due to the Covid crisis.

Ina Fassbender | AFP | Getty Images

The German health minister has warned the citizens of the country strongly, telling citizens that vaccinations are the key to their survival.

“Some would say that this is cynical, but by the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or dead … That is the reality,” said Jens Spahn on Monday at a press conference in Berlin.

Spahn blamed “the very contagious Delta variant” for the rapid increase in infections in the country, which is considered the fourth wave of the pandemic, said Spahn, “that’s why we urgently recommend a vaccination”.

Germany is considering introducing stricter Covid-19 measures and even a partial lockdown like its neighbor, the Netherlands, as cases rise. According to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases, more than 30,000 new cases were registered on Monday.

Germany now has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: 68% of the adult population are fully vaccinated, but only 7% have received a booster vaccination. Boosters are needed as we know that vaccine immunity wears off after about six months.

Spahn told the Germans not to be choosy about which vaccine to get and said, “Some vaccinating doctors say BioNTech is the Mercedes of vaccines and Moderna is the Rolls-Royce,” reported Deutsche Welle.

“There is enough vaccine for all upcoming vaccinations,” said Spahn. “And both vaccines work.”

Germany uses both the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine (BioNTech is a German company and the Germans tended to prefer this shot) as well as the Moderna vaccine, the AstraZeneca University of Oxford vaccine, and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.

Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn on the way to the presentation of the National Reserve Health Protection at the Federal Press Conference on July 21, 2021 in Berlin.

Andreas Gora | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Covid vaccines significantly reduce the risk of serious infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but some countries in Europe are more hesitant to vaccinate than others. And there is now increasing segregation in access to public spaces for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Merkel’s warning

The outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel also issued her own warning to the country on Monday that the current Covid rules “are not sufficient” to stop the fourth wave and that stronger measures must be taken.

“We have a highly dramatic situation – the current rules are not enough,” said Merkel at a meeting of the leaders of her conservative CDU party, reported Reuters.

After a meeting with the heads of state and government of the 16 German federal states, which largely determined their Covid response measures during the pandemic, Merkel called on the state ministers to adopt stricter restrictions by Wednesday.

Germany has already implemented stricter Covid rules in the last few days. Last Thursday, Merkel and the country’s 16 prime ministers agreed on a new package of measures to combat the virus, with restrictions for unvaccinated people in areas of the country where hospital admissions exceed a certain threshold.

Merkel emphasized at the time that “many of the measures we have announced would not be necessary if more people were vaccinated”. She said the country was also considering making vaccination of hospital staff mandatory and that free Covid tests would resume.

Several states and cities have already enacted stricter rules requiring the public to present Covid passports that have a person’s vaccination status or have just recovered from the virus (also known as “2G rules” as they relate to whether people are vaccinated – “vaccinated” in German – or “recovered”) in order to gain access to bars, restaurants and other public facilities such as cinemas or museums.

Europe’s newest wave

Not only Germany is experiencing a rapid increase in Covid cases with the onset of winter, as Europe as a whole is recording increasing infections, which is causing many countries to tighten the rules.

Austria has again imposed a full lockdown asking citizens to work from home and closing non-essential shops, while the Netherlands’ partial lockdown closes (among other things) bars and restaurants at 8 p.m. and through early December should last. although it could be extended.

Many countries are increasingly relying on Covid passports to keep recreational activities and businesses open, although critics say they demarcate societies according to vaccination lines.

Read more: Protests against Covid rules and lockdowns break out across Europe

Europe has been rocked by protests against new restrictions in recent weeks, with demonstrations breaking out in Brussels, Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam last weekend.

The region’s Covid crisis has not escaped the US, which 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 because of the “very high Covid-19 level in the country”.

The recommendation came after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement to “avoid traveling to Germany. If you need to travel to Germany, make sure you are fully vaccinated before you travel.”

“Due to the current situation in Germany, even fully vaccinated travelers can be at risk of getting and spreading Covid-19 variants,” warned the CDC. The same travel warning applies to Great Britain, Austria, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark and Norway, among others.

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