German Chancellor Angela Merkel said boosting vaccination rates will not be enough to contain soaring coronavirus infections across the country, Bloomberg reported, calling for tough action as countries across Europe come down hard on the unvaccinated and prepare drastic measures to smother the outbreak.
Merkel reportedly told officials from her conservative party on Monday that many Germans don’t appear to understand how severe the country’s outbreak is, according to Bloomberg, calling on individual German states to implement tougher restrictions this week.
The measures would exceed new restrictions barring unvaccinated people from public transport and many areas of public life—which apply in areas where hospitalized Covid-19 patients exceed a certain threshold—and health minister Jens Spahn said he could not rule out another nationwide lockdown.
Some politicians in Germany are debating following neighboring Austria—which went back into full lockdown Monday after a more targeted, unvaccinated-only lockdown—in requiring everyone to get vaccinated against Covid-19.
From February next year, Austrians refusing the jab will face fines of up to €3,600 ($4,000), with smaller penalties for those refusing booster shots.
By spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany… will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” Spahn said at a news conference Monday. “With the very contagious delta variant, it is very, very likely … that anyone who is not vaccinated will over the next few months become infected.”
Europe has, again, become the center of the pandemic. Cases and deaths have been rising there even as they mostly fell around the world. The World Health Organization said it is “very worried” about the situation, warning that an additional 500,000 deaths could be recorded by March if sufficient steps aren’t taken.
Many countries, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, are facing dramatic surges and infections are at record-breaking levels. Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria, Czechia, Germany and the Netherlands are all at, or have hit, new highs and cases are rapidly rising in other countries.
Violent protests against new lockdowns and other restrictions have erupted across the bloc as governments scramble to contain rising cases. Many of these measures explicitly target the unvaccinated, who experts and officials warn are undoubtedly driving the new wave by refusing provably safe and effective vaccines.