Germany is seeing ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated’, says Health Minister

Health Minister Jens Spahn says more than 90 percent of intensive care (ICU) patients in Germany with Covid-19 are not vaccinated - and called on people to get their shots.

Germany is seeing 'pandemic of the unvaccinated', says Health Minister
Residents in Saxony receive a free Bratwurst from the city when they get jabbed in a bid to encourage vaccinations. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hendrik Schmidt

“Right now, we’re seeing a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Spahn told Welt on Wednesday. He said hospitals could become overrun in the autumn and winter months because so many people in Germany are still not vaccinated against Covid-19. 

He urged people eligible for the vaccine to get their jabs as soon as possible.

“We have fulfilled our promise,” said Spahn. “The vaccine doses are there to get us safely through autumn and winter.”

Vaccinations in Germany have plateaued in recent weeks, raising concerns that the country won’t be able to get through the cooler months unscathed. 

Just over 64 percent of people in Germany have received at least one jab and 59.2 percent are fully vaccinated. 

READ ALSO: Fourth wave – What we know about Germany’s spike in Covid cases

Spahn said the federal and state governments are discussing new benchmarks to assess the Covid situation in Germany.

As The Local reported, Spahn plans to make the number of hospital admissions the decisive factor when assessing future Covid measures – rather than the incidence rate of infections. 

READ ALSO: German Health Minister says focus must be on Covid hospital admissions when deciding factors 

He said Germany could assess the situation by comparing it to the “very heavy workload” in hospitals last winter. 

Spahn also reiterated that there would be no strict lockdown restrictions imposed on people who are vaccinated. 

“For vaccinated and recovered people, there will be no further restrictions,” said Spahn. “No curfews, no contact restrictions, no closures.” That, he said, is a very important signal.

“We are vaccinating Germany back to freedom,” said Spahn. “That’s the real message now for autumn and winter.”

Some critics have questioned if the German government’s insistence on saying there will be no tough Covid measures for vaccinated people is down to the fact that there’s a federal election on September 26th – and the Christian Democrats want to keep voters on their side.

German states on Monday brought in uniform rules for a ‘Covid health pass’ system restricting access to most public indoor spaces to those who are fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid or to those who have tested negatively for the virus. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s 16 states bring in uniform Covid-19 rules

Member comments

  1. I wonder if the Minister is not bending the figures? This obsession with vaccination combined with completely ignoring cheap safe effective medicines is bizarre. If you cross the border into the Czech Republic Ivermectin is a recognized treatment. In India the states that use have seen a spectacular fall in mortality. Sooner or later the governments will have to accept the mounting evidence worldwide that existing medicines work, especially if taken early, and their use should be encouraged.
    Of course less money will be made all round but we might actually see an end to the Corona follies and hospitals will no longer be overrun – at least not with Covid patients. If of course Germany follows France drastically cutting intensive care bed numbers, as urged by Brussels, then they will be over run with other illnesses.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.