German virologist warns against relaxing Covid-19 measures before vaccine widely available

German virologist warns against relaxing Covid-19 measures before vaccine widely available
German virologist Christian Drosten. Photo: DPA
High profile scientist Christian Drosten has once again warned against relaxing Covid-19 measures too soon, saying not enough people in Germany will be vaccinated in the coming weeks.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are to meet in a week to decide on whether to extend or loosen the current shutdown.

But virologist Drosten issued a warning against easing restrictions too soon – even though the number of infections are decreasing.

“For the period until Easter, we cannot yet expect much in the way of population protection through vaccination,” the Charité scientist said in his Coronavirus Update podcast on NDR-Info on Tuesday.

Following a 'vaccination summit' on Monday, Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country would see “tough weeks of shortages” of the Covid-19 vaccine until the end of March due to supply issues. After that the availability of vaccines will pick up.

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Meanwhile, the current Covid-19 measures, which include the closure of non-essential shops, bars, restaurants (except for takeaway) as well as cultural and leisure facilities, are due to expire on February 14th.

READ ALSO: How Germany's Covid-19 shutdown has made this winter tougher than most

Germany on Wednesday reported 9,705 new coronavirus infections within 24 hours and 975 deaths. The number of infections per 100,000 residents in seven days stood at 82.9, signalling a positive downward trend.

Authorities say they are aiming to get the incidence rate down to 50 so that health officials are able to trace contacts of people infected with Covid-19.

Chancellor Merkel on Tuesday urged people in Germany to “hold out for a while longer” during an interview with German broadcaster ARD.

She said the decreasing 7-day incidence was a “good achievement”, adding: “We have not been there for a long time.”

“But that doesn't mean we have control of the virus by health offices again,” she said.

“We still have a long way to go, and the hardest stretch is this winter.”

READ ALSO: Merkel says 'all vaccines welcome' during TV interview

Others, including Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Müller (Social Democrats), also consider a debate on relaxations to be premature.

“I am very cautious at the moment,” he said on Tuesday.

Drosten warns that 40-60-year-olds at risk if restrictions eased too soon

Virologist Drosten said that even if vaccinations reduce the number of deaths, getting the number of cases down remains essential.

Drosten spoke of a scenario in which there could be numerous severe cases of disease in the group of 40 to 60-year-olds, which comprises more than 23 million people – if measures were relaxed too early and these people were not yet protected by vaccinations.

This could lead to the health system becoming overloaded and high sickness rates.

READ ALSO: German virologist warns of 100,000 daily Covid-19 cases if measures taken away too early

However, Drosten said he was “very pleasantly surprised” by the projected increase in vaccine doses over the course of the year.

“The situation is much better than I thought it would be days ago,” he said.

According to estimates by the Health Ministry, supplies are expected to increase significantly by summer. Merkel reiterated the promise to offer every adult in Germany a vaccine by late September.

On the effectiveness of the various vaccines, Drosten explained that they were all “totally effective” against severe courses of Covid-19.


Member comments

  1. Why not also interview and include commentary from virologists / politicians who disagree? There are many experts who think the lockdowns are not the only solution (though you certainly never read about them in the Local).

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