Germany’s health minster calls for a nationwide lockdown, considers Russian vaccine

A healthcare worker cares for a Covid-19 patient in the ICU ward at the Robert Bosch Hospital in Stuttgart, Germany, on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany faces hard lockdown measures into late March if authorities fail to contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

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LONDON — German health authorities are worried about surging coronavirus infections in the country and have said a nationwide lockdown is needed to put an end to the ongoing third wave.

Germany has faced high Covid infection rates since last October and, despite an improvement in the month of February, the number of new cases has been rising since late March.

“Many citizens recognize the need to break this wave with additional measures and the majority are in favor of stricter rules. It needs one lockdown to break the current wave,” Jens Spahn, German health minister, said at a press conference Friday.

This third wave of the coronavirus is putting pressure on the country’s health system at a time when the regional and federal governments are clashing over the right measures to take.

“The number of intensive care patients is increasing far too quickly. Doctors and nurses have been under constant stress for months and rightly sound the alarm,” Spahn said.

“We have to break the third wave as quickly as possible. That means: reducing contacts and reducing mobility. This is the only way to prevent further increases.”

The country reported over 30,000 new Covid cases on Wednesday and around 26,000 on Thursday.

German officials have been divided over the right approach to tackle rising cases, while citizens have become frustrated with the different arrangements among various regions.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has pushed for a tougher, uniform approach across the country, but regional leaders have so far prevented that.

Speaking to CNBC earlier this week, Germany’s Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said: “If we could come to similar measures in all the places this would help a lot and make it more understandable.”

It comes as German health authorities push for a ramp up in vaccinations in the country, which has already started paying off. On Thursday, the daily inoculation number neared 720,000 in comparison with roughly 317,000 a week ago, according to data from the health ministry.

“I think we will come to a situation where, at the end of this month, it will be 4 to 5 million doses a week,” Scholz told CNBC.

Sputnik V

Speaking at Friday’s press conference, the health minister confirmed that contract negotiations to purchase the Russian-developed vaccine Sputnik V are taking place now, according to Reuters. Spahn added that there is nonetheless a question mark about whether these vaccines would be available in the coming months.

The European Medicines Agency began assessing the Russian shot in early March and will decide whether to recommend it for use in the 27 EU member states. Although the regulator is using an urgent method to check the efficacy of Sputnik V, it is unclear when it could get final approval.

Authorities in Germany have previously said they would consider using the Russian vaccine if the EMA were to conclude that the shot was effective at preventing the Covid-19 virus.

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