BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) – Chancellor Angela Merkel said the latest surge in Covid-19 infections is worse than anything Germany has experienced so far and called for tighter restrictions to help check the spread.
Dr Merkel told officials from her Christian Democratic party on Monday (Nov 22) that the situation is “highly dramatic” and warned that hospitals would soon be overwhelmed unless the fourth wave of the virus is broken, according to a person familiar with her remarks.
She said that many citizens do not seem to understand the severity of the situation, and that while more people should get vaccinated, it would not be enough on its own. She has already called on Germany’s 16 states, which largely set their own policies on pandemic curbs, to tighten restrictions this week.
Dr Merkel, who is due to step down as soon as next month after 16 years in power, has been making increasingly frantic calls for Germany to step up its fight against the coronavirus. Infections have been rising at a record pace, and in the eastern state of Saxony, the seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people has surged to almost 1,000.
The euro held declines after Dr Merkel’s comments, falling 0.1 per cent to US$1.1274. It traded within 0.3 per cent of the 16-month low seen last week, which came after Austria announced a lockdown and Germany suggested it may soon follow.
The Stoxx 600 benchmark surrendered early gains of as much as 0.4 per cent and turned flat on the day. The Euro Stoxx 50, a gauge for the euro area’s biggest stocks, was down 0.3 per cent. Travel and leisure shares were among the hardest hit, with TUI AG down 0.9 per cent.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday that people who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 are almost certain to catch the virus in coming months and some of those will die. He said last week that he could not rule out another full lockdown.
By the end of this winter, “just about everyone in Germany will probably be either vaccinated, recovered or dead”, Mr Spahn said at a news conference in Berlin. He acknowledged that some might find the statement cynical.
“Immunity will be reached,” he said. “The question is whether it’s via vaccination or infection, and we empathetically recommend the path via vaccination.”
Germany is gearing up a Covid-19 booster-shot campaign to try to check the fourth wave of infections that has already led to tightened restrictions in virus hotspots.
Many of the country’s famed outdoor Christmas markets have already been cancelled for the second year in a row, and people who are not inoculated face possible curfews.
The situation in hospitals is increasingly strained, with clinics preparing to transfer severely ill people to other facilities, German intensive-care association DIVI said on Monday.
The authorities expect shipments of six million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine shot early this week in Germany, Mr Spahn said. Still, boosters alone will not be enough to curb infections within the next two weeks and people will need to reduce contacts as well, he added.