Get vaccinated or get Covid, health minister tells Germans

The German health minister said the rapid rise in coronavirus cases means anyone in the country who isn’t vaccinated will likely have Covid-19 by the end of winter and some of them will die.

Official figures showed more than 30,000 newly confirmed cases in Germany in the last 24 hours, an increase of around 50% compared to the previous week.

Hospitals have warned that the intensive care unit is nearing capacity and that some patients will need to be moved to clinics further away.

Health Minister Jens Spahn urged Germans to get vaccinated, even with a booster, if their first round of vaccination was more than six months ago, in order to reduce the risk of serious illness.

“By the end of this winter, pretty much everyone in Germany … will have been vaccinated, recovered or died,” Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

He acknowledged that some had called this view cynical.

“But it’s true,” he said. “With the highly contagious Delta variant, this is very, very likely and we therefore urgently recommend a vaccination.”

Mr Spahn said about 50 million doses of the Moderna and BioNtech / Pfizer vaccines would be made available for the remainder of the year so people can get first, second, or third vaccinations if needed.

To do this, Germany withheld tens of millions of cans that were originally intended for poor countries. Those missing doses would be made available at a later date, he said.

Some politicians in Germany have suggested that the country may have to consider vaccination requirements, like its neighbor Austria.

About 68% of Germany’s 83 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated. The German government has announced plans to increase this rate to over 75% in order to effectively contain the spread of the virus, but a sizable minority of the population has opposed calls to take the vaccine.

Karl Lauterbach, a prominent center-left Social Democrat politician, called for a “radical” application of rules that require vaccination or recovery certificates to be presented for access to shops and public places.

“Even a general vaccination mandate (should) not be taboo,” he said on Twitter.

Bavaria’s conservative governor Markus Söder said on Monday that he also advocates compulsory vaccination for everyone.

Mr Soeder acknowledged that such a move would violate civil liberties, but argued that it must be balanced against the need to protect the health of the population and uphold other freedoms.

“That’s why we believe that only a universal vaccination mandate can provide a permanent solution,” he added.

However, a spokesman for the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear that her government had no plans to address the controversial issue of vaccination mandates.

“There is no decision on this now and it would no longer be made by this government,” said Steffen Seibert to reporters in Berlin.

A center-left coalition of three parties is due to conclude negotiations on the formation of a government in early December.

Germany expects the European Union to approve vaccines against Covid-19 for children aged five to eleven by the end of the week, he said.

School-age children have one of the highest rates of infection in the country.

The EU will begin shipping vaccines to younger children on December 20, with Germany initially receiving 2.4 million doses, Spahn said.

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