Germany’s Covid wave could reach ‘sad peak’ at Christmas, outgoing minister says

Germany’s fourth wave of the pandemic could reach a “sad peak” in intensive care units around the country around Christmas, the outgoing health minister, Jens Spahn, has warned as he defended the decision to bar unvaccinated people from many areas of public life.

Di giovedì, the German government and heads of the federal states agreed that only those who have been vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid should be allowed in restaurants, cinemas, leisure facilities and many shops, and mooted introducing a general vaccine mandate from February.

The capital Berlin announced on Friday it would from next Wednesday bar unvaccinated people from Christmas markets, as well as generally limit the size of crowds allowed at public gatherings. Nightclubs in Berlin are allowed to stay open, although visitors will not be allowed to dance.

German states with high infection rates, such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Saxony, will from Saturday go back to holding football matches behind closed doors.

“We should have displayed this consistency in our treatment of unvaccinated people at a much earlier stage”, said Spahn, who is due to hand over his job to a successor from the new government next Wednesday.

Spahn warned that the number of Covid-19 patients on intensive care wards would “significantly rise” above the 5,000 mark in the coming weeks and months. Venerdì mattina, 4,793 patients suffering from the disease are lying on intensive care beds at hospitals around Germania, about half of whom are intubated.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s disease control agency, is recording a national incidence rate of 442,1 cases per 100,000 citizens over the space of seven days, con 390 patients having died with the disease in the last 24 ore.

“Reduce your contacts as much as possible”, Spahn urged. “Do your part to help reduce further suffering”.

Germany’s incidence rate has stagnated over the last week and marginally reduced over the last three days, though politicians and scientists warn off investing too much hope in the figures.

The head of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said on Friday he was confident that restrictions were already having an effect in some German regions. Other states such as Saxony or Thuringia, tuttavia, were so inundated with new cases that health authorities were struggling to report them accurately as laboratories’ capacities reach their limit.

Germany’s incoming “traffic light” coalition government has said it wants parliamentarians to have a free, unwhipped vote on following Austria’s lead to make vaccination mandatory from next year.

Leading figures from the three coalition parties, including the chancellor-designate, Olaf Scholz, and the finance minister, Christian Lindner, have in recent days signalled they would back such a move.

Health minister Spahn on Friday signalled he would vote against a general mandate, saying his position was “very sceptical in principle”. Nel passato, the conservative politician had given his word that vaccination would not become mandatory, and “that will determine my voting behaviour”.

Speaking at the same press conference, scientist Wieler declined to position himself in favour of a general mandate. “I believe this country has to do a lot more debating," Egli ha detto. “My wish is for there to be an informed debate, followed by an informed decision.”

Unless the country had sufficient immunity against Covid-19, Wieler said, “we will struggle to bring the pandemic to a standstill”.

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