The fourth Covid wave in Germany: ‘A pandemic’ of the unvaccinated’

BERLIN — The University Hospital of giessen, one of Germany’s most important clinics for lung disease, is at capacity. The number of Covid-19 patients tripled in recent weeks. Almost half of they are on fans.

And every single one has not been vaccinated.

“I ask everyone” patient: Why didn’t you get vaccinated?” said Dr Susanne Herold, head of infectious diseases, after her daily round on the Department on Thursday. “It’s a mix of people who distrust the vaccine, distrust the state and are often hard to reach public information campaigns.”

patients like die hers are the main drivers of a fourth wave of Covid-19 cases in Germany that has produced dozens of thousands of new daily infections — more than the land ever had in the pandemic.

For Germany it is a startling reversal. At the begin of the pandemic, Germany had set An example for how to control the virus and the death toll low. It was set quickly in place widespread testing and treatment, expand the number! of intensive care beds and had a trusted leader in Chancellor Angela Merkel, a trained scientist, whose government’s social distance guidelines were widely adhered to.

But today a combination of factors has led to a new rise, including winter temperatures, a slow rollout of booster vaccines, and a moment more pronounced spike in infections in neighboring Eastern European countries like Czech Republic. The fact that is Germany in a species of political uncertainty during the transition between governments has not helped.

But virologists and pandemic experts say there’s little doubt over exists that it is the unvaccinated one who contribute the most to the wave of burdensome infections in hospitals across the country.

“It’s Our Low” rate of vaccination – we did not do what was necessary,” said Dr. Herold in Giessen. She was part of An team of scientists who modeled the impact of a fourth wave and warned in early summer that with the hyper-infectious Delta variant at least 85 percent of the whole population would need getting vaccinated to avert a crisis in health care system.

“We are still below 70 percent,” she said. “I don’t know how we can win this race against time with the fourth wave. I’m afraid we already lost.”

German vaccination rate is much better than that of many Central and Eastern European countries, where the death toll of the coronavirus is rising. in Romania, for for example only about four in 10 people got two shots, and the deaths from the coronavirus have hit record levels.

Still, with as regards one in three Germans not yet fully vaccinated, the German vaccination rate belongs to the lowest in Western Europe. In Belgium, Denmark and Italy three in four people are fully vaccinated. In Spain and Iceland, only about two in 10 have to get the yet second shot. Portugal has a vaccination rate of almost 90 percent.

The German rate stays behind because of to fail of vaccine resistance die are not limited to, but especially deeply, in the former Communist East, where the far-right alternative for Germany party is strong. Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel, leaders of the parliamentary parliament of the AfD group, are both proudly unvaccinated – and both tested positive for the virus in recent weeks.

“What we are experiencing is mainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” the minister of health, Jens Spahn said earlier this month.

have infections also pointed in components of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, two rich southern states die home to a noisy protest movement against measures to combat the virus, known as the “Querdenker”, of ‘adversaries’.

“We have two viruses in the country,” said Markus Söder, the Bavarian governor in recently a televised debate. “We have the coronavirus and we have this poison, die is being distributed on a huge scale,” he said, referring to misinformation over vaccines.

Klaus-Peter Hanke knows die toxic first-hand propaganda.

He’s the mayor of Pirna, a city of less than 40,000 in the eastern state of Saxony, that one golf of violent protests from anti-vaxxers in the final to dawn of the Lockdown last spring.

An in three voters in the polling district of which Pirna is a part, cast their ballots for the AfD in September national election. And just below half of residents refuse to be vaccinated. They helped make Saxony the state with the lowest vaccination rate in Germany — and with the highest number per capita of new infections.

“The willingness to get vaccinated is low here,” said Mr Hanke in an interview. “We have tried to counteract that with dialogue. But there is a point where you hit An wall, And you just can’t go on and one result is that it has escalated.”

The Covid Department in the hospital is running out of beds. There too, almost all patients are not vaccinated, Mr Hanke said: “Nine out 10.”

And yet, several restaurants in city ​​have signs in the window, inviting “everyone” – not just the ones die are vaccinated of recovered from infection according to the state rules – enter.

There are now 10 control teams of three people each — a police officer a health official and someone from the department of public order – who wander through city’s restaurants, bars and hairdressers and fines die the rules on on site: owners have to pay 500 euros, about $572, customers 150 euros, $170.

“It’s pretty drastic,” said Mr. Hanke, who has vaccine resistant in his own circle of friends. “But we don’t see any other” way to get people for their . to change behavior.”

anecdotal in in any case, the hard approach can pay off off. Waiting times Bee mobile vaccination units increased to two hours this week, Mr Hanke reported, suggesting that the threat of exclusion of many of within public life can take a nudge in be the back more people to get a shot.

Several other German states are now working on similar regulations, introduction of stricter mask mandates and instead of a negative test, making evidence of vaccination of past infection mandatory for access to many locations.

That may not be enough anymore, said Sandra Ciesek, director of the Institute of Medical Virology in the University Hospital of Frankfurt and co-signer of published a paper by seven leading scientists last week, in what they insist on politicians speed up booster shots and consider a range of measures, including partial lockdowns for the unvaccinated of even short-term national Lock down.

The absence of political leadership at the national level at a time when the number of new daily infections rises to more than 50,000 has added to the confused approach of containing the virus.

since her conservative party lost the national election in September, Mrs Merkel remains only if the head of a caregiver government while her likely successor, Olaf Scholz, is absorbed by hard coalition talk with two other parties.

“Where’s Angela Merkel?” Der Spiegel asked in an article this week, before asking a few paragraphs below, “Where’s Scholz?”

It’s a question die many virologists in the whole country, too, concerned that a flaw of political leadership is wasteful valuable time — and potentially lives.

“There is no real Centre of power and responsibility: the country lacks leadership,” says Michael Meyer-Hermann, head of the Department of System Immunology in the Helmholtz Center for Infection research and a member of the Council of experts die Mrs Merkel during the pandemic.

“the outgoing” government does not really respond anymore, and the incoming government is playing everything down,” he added.

after the number of daily new coronavirus infections hit An record high on On November 3, 33,949 German virologists sounded the alarm. The answer from mr. Scholz’s future coalition partners was a statement promising that there would not be another lockdown.

“For me it was a key moment”, said professor Meyer Hermann. “They act like the pandemic is over at a time when the numbers are exploding.”

Christopher F. Schuetze reporting contributed.

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