Germany passes vaccination milestone but wary of delta variant
Germany has now given at least one coronavirus vaccine to more than half of its population, a milestone in what is now a rapid vaccination campaign
COVID-19 infections have fallen sharply in Germany in recent weeks, falling below 1,000 a day on certain days for the first time since September. On Friday, the National Center for Disease Control said 1,076 new cases had been reported in the past 24 hours and that there had been just 10.3 cases per 100,000 population in the past week.
After a slow start, vaccinations have picked up in Germany and everyone aged 12 and over can get the vaccine since last week. The country administers more than 800,000 injections per day.
Almost 41.7 million people – 50.1% of the total population – have now received at least one injection, while nearly 24.7 million – or 29.6% of the population – are fully vaccinated.
“These figures give us confidence,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn. “In a few weeks, it will be possible – as things stand now, with the deliveries that can be expected – to offer vaccines to all adults who want them.”
But he and other officials urged the Germans to be on guard, pointing to the British experience with the Delta variant. This variant, first discovered in India, fueled another wave of infections in the UK, forcing the government to postpone plans to lift all remaining restrictions on social contact in England until July 19.
The delta variant accounts for just over 6% of new cases in Germany, according to the latest figures, but that number has increased in the past two or three weeks. It accounts for over 90% of new infections in Britain, mainly among young people and young adults.
“The question will not be whether the delta will also become the dominant variant in Germany and continental Europe, but … when and under what conditions – ideally under conditions with a high level of vaccination and low infection figures”, Spahn told reporters in Berlin.
Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, the national center for disease control, called on the Germans “not to waste our success carelessly” to bring down infections. He said when the delta variant becomes dominant, it depends a lot on people’s behavior, “but it will get the upper hand in the fall, at the latest.”
Germany has restricted travel from the UK since May 23, when Britain became the only European country classified as a ‘viral variant area’, Germany’s highest risk category . Airlines and the like are largely limited to transporting German citizens and residents of Britain, and those arriving must spend 14 days in quarantine at home.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chief of Staff Helge Braun has warned German fans against traveling to London for the final stages of the European Football Championship. And he told the RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland news group that “we have to be careful until everyone has been offered vaccination.”
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