German Official Warns Those Unvaccinated Will Catch COVID or Die From It by Winter's End

Following a large rise in Germany's COVID-19 cases, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said it's likely everyone in the country who isn't vaccinated can expect to catch the virus, risking death, by the end of winter.

The Associated Press reported Monday that more than 30,000 new cases were reported in Germany in the past 24 hours, about a 50 percent increase from last week. The country's COVID-19 death toll is expected to pass 100,000 this week.

Spahn urged all eligible Germans to get vaccinated, including booster shots for those who had their last dose more than six months ago.

"By the end of this winter pretty much everyone in Germany...will have been vaccinated, recovered or died," Spahn told reporters in Berlin.

He said the view might be cynical, but it is still true. "With the highly contagious Delta variant this is very, very likely and that's why we are recommending vaccination so urgently," Spahn said.

About 68 perent of Germany's population is fully vaccinated. The German government said they want that figure to reach above 75 percent to most effectively curb the spread.

In the AP report, Spahn said approximately 50 million doses of the Moderna and BioNtech-Pfizer vaccines will be available to Germans for the rest of the year. However, to reach this amount, Germany is holding back tens of millions of doses originally intended to be given to poor countries. He said those doses would be replaced at a later date.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Germany, COVID-19 vaccine
About 68 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated, but government officials would like that number to be above 75 percent. Above, a Malteser employee vaccinates a citizen at the reopened vaccination center in Luetzen, Germany on November 22. Jan Woitas/dpa via AP

Karl Lauterbach, a prominent lawmaker with the center-left Social Democrats, called for a "radical" application of rules requiring people to present vaccination or recovery certificates to access some stores and public places.

"A general vaccine mandate [shouldn't be] taboo either," he said on Twitter.

Bavaria's conservative governor, Markus Soeder, said Monday that he favors mandatory vaccines for all, too.

Soeder acknowledged that such a move would infringe on civil liberties, but argued that this needed to be balanced against the need to protect the health of the population and preserve other freedoms.

"That's why we believe that only a general vaccine mandate offers a durable solution," he said.

But a spokesman for outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel made clear that her government had no plans to tackle the thorny issue of vaccine mandates.

"There is no decision about this now and it wouldn't be taken by this government anymore," Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin.

A center-left coalition of three parties is expected to finalize negotiations on forming a government in early December.

Bavaria, which required all citizens to get vaccinated against smallpox in 1807, currently has the second-highest COVID-19 infection rates behind Saxony to the northeast. The doctors' association there said Saxony needs to prepare for a system of triage to manage the few remaining ICU beds in the state.

Gernot Marx, the head of Germany's intensive care association DIVI, said many hospitals in hard-hit regions have begun postponing scheduled surgery.

He noted that the country has about 4,000 fewer ICU beds available than a year ago because large numbers of medical staff quit their jobs because of the intense strain of working during the pandemic.

A senior doctor at Berlin's Charite hospital, Steffen Weber-Carstens, said the city of 3.6 million had only 89 free ICU beds left Monday.

Despite high infection rates among children, schools remain open in Germany.

Spahn, the health minister, said he expects the European Union to approve vaccines against COVID-19 for children aged 5-11 at the end of the week.

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

Jens Spahn, German Health Minister
German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the country's unvaccinated can expect to contract COVID-19 by the end of winter. Above, Spahn briefs the media about the vaccination campaign against COVID-19 in Berlin, Germany on November 22. Markus Schreiber/AP Photo