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ANGELA MERKEL

‘I’m delighted’: Merkel receives AstraZeneca jab

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday received the first dose of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, more than two weeks after German authorities recommended use of the jab only for people aged 60 and over.

'I'm delighted': Merkel receives AstraZeneca jab
Merkel at a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin on Wednesday. Photo: DPA/John Macdougall

“I am delighted to have received my first vaccination with AstraZeneca today. I thank everyone involved in the vaccination campaign and everyone who gets vaccinated. Vaccination is the key to getting out of the pandemic,” the 66-year-old said in a tweet posted by her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

Merkel is stepping down this year after nearly 16 years in power.

In 2019, she sparked concerns for her health with a series of shaking spells in public but has appeared to be in good condition since then.

Merkel had frequently been asked about her plans to get vaccinated but insisted that she would wait her turn according to Germany’s strict priority policies regarding the coronavirus jab.

The German capital, its own city-state, opened vaccinations to all people over the age of 60 earlier this month.

German officials have been at pains to shore up public confidence in AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been on a roller-coaster ride in Europe.

Germany’s STIKO vaccine commission in late March said it recommended use of the jab only for people 60 and older following concerns over several blood clotting cases among younger recipients of the vaccine.

People under the age of 60 can still take AstraZeneca in consultation with their doctor and if they are fully aware of the potential risks.

Several other countries, including France, Spain and Canada, have also imposed age limits on the AstraZeneca shot over the occurrence of rare but very severe blood clots.

Denmark this week banned the use of AstraZeneca jabs outright over blood clot concerns, just as the EU said it was expecting 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses earlier than expected.

French Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said Friday that the EU was very unlikely to renew its vaccine contracts with AstraZeneca although no decision has been taken.

READ ALSO: ‘Highly probable’ EU won’t renew AstraZeneca orders

The European Medicines Agency in late March said experts probing links between AstraZeneca’s vaccine and the rare reports of clotting have found no specific risk factors, but are investigating further.

The World Health Organization has also said that the AstraZeneca shot is safe.

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COVID-19 RULES

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now

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