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VACCINATION

Germany expects to offer Covid jabs to all adults ‘from June’

Germany is expecting to open up Covid-19 vaccinations to all adults in June at the latest, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Thursday.

Germany expects to offer Covid jabs to all adults 'from June'
Health Minister Jens Spahn on Wednesday. Photo: DPA

Spahn is hoping “that we will be able to lift the prioritisation in June”, he told the Bundesrat upper house of parliament, referring to current lists deciding who gets the jabs first. He added that the move may be possible even earlier.

READ ALSO: When will I be in line for a Covid vaccine?

After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign which kicked off in December, Germany has managed to accelerate its rollout this month.

Some 21.6 percent of the population had received a first dose by Thursday, according to official data.

But Germany has until now been bound by a strict system of priority groups drawn up by the STIKO vaccine commission, mostly defined by age.

Some German states had already this week announced plans to open up the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been on a roller-coaster ride in Europe, to anyone who wants it.

Germany has officially recommended the AstraZeneca jab only for people 60 and older following concerns over several blood clotting cases among younger recipients of the vaccine.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) health agency on Thursday reported 29,518 new infections in the past 24 hours — among the highest daily rates since the start of the pandemic.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: Where are Covid cases going up (and down) around Germany?

Possible Sputnik vaccine introduction

The news came as the Saxony state premier said Germany was in talks with Russia to buy 30 million doses of the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine.

“Germany is negotiating 3 x 10 million doses for June, July, August. The prerequisite for this is the swift EMA approval of the vaccine,” Michael Kretschmer who discussed the issue with President Vladimir Putin, wrote on Twitter.

Kretschmer posted the tweet after meeting Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko as part of a visit to Moscow ostensibly focusing on cultural relations with Russia.

As part of the visit, he also discussed joint efforts to fight the virus in a phone call with Putin, the Kremlin said in a statement.

“Putin confirmed the readiness of the Russian side to cooperate with German partners to this end, in particular to organise deliveries and joint production of vaccines,” it said.

Germany sparked controversy in early April when it said it had started talks with Russia about purchasing doses of the Sputnik vaccine without waiting for coordinated EU action.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said Europe’s biggest economy was seeking a “binding commitment on which amounts specifically could reach Germany after regulatory approval and when”.

The negotiations come as the two countries are at loggerheads over issues including repeated Russian cyberattacks against the West, the Kremlin’s treatment of opposition leader Alexei Navalny and escalating tensions on the Ukraine border.

Germany has until now coordinated its vaccine buying with the EU.

Since inoculations began in late December, Germany has deployed vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Moderna.

A fourth, from Johnson & Johnson, is expected to be rolled out across the bloc in the coming weeks.

The southern state of Bavaria and the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania have already announced plans to pre-order doses of Sputnik. The EMA has launched a rolling review of the Sputnik jab, which could become the first non-Western coronavirus vaccine approved for use across the 27-nation bloc.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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