Germans to be 'vaccinated, recovered from Covid or dead' by winter's end, health minister warns

Germany’s health minister has said the rapid rise in coronavirus cases means it’s likely everyone in the country who isn’t vaccinated will have caught Covid-19 by the end of the winter - and some of those will die.

On Monday, Jens Spahn told reporters in Berlin: “By the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany...will have been vaccinated, recovered or died”.

Official figures showed more than 30,000 newly confirmed cases in Germany over the past 24 hours - an increase of about 50% compared to one week ago.

Hospitals have warned that ICU capacities are nearly exhausted, with some patients having to be transferred to other clinics far away.

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Mr Spahn acknowledged some had described his warning as cynical.

“But it’s true. With the highly contagious delta variant this is very, very likely and that’s why we are recommending vaccination so urgently," he said. He urged Germans to get vaccinated, including with booster shots if their first round of inoculation occurred more than six months ago, to reduce the risk of serious illness. Germany expects the European Union to approve vaccines against Covid-19 for children aged 5-11 at the end of the week, he said. School-age children have among the highest infection rates in the country.

The country recently announced new Covid measures banning unvaccinated people from using public transport.

The EU will begin shipping vaccines adjusted for younger children on December 20, with Germany initially getting 2.4 million doses, Mr Spahn said.

Germany is not the only European country struggling to manage high Covid rates.

Several European nations report hospitals being at breaking point, while some lawmakers are reinforcing strict measures, such as Austria which has gone back into a nationwide lockdown, with mandatory vaccinations to be enforced from February.

Unequal vaccination rollouts have contributed to a surge of Covid cases across Europe, the World Health Organisation has said.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said Europe is once again at the epicentre of the pandemic, as the relaxation of restrictions and unequal vaccination rollouts have brought the continent to a "critical point".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned "storm clouds" of a new Covid wave are gathering over parts of Europe and could make their way to the UK.

"We have been here before and we remember what happens when a wave starts rolling in," he warned earlier this week, urging Britons to get their booster jabs.