Wandering around the streets of German towns and cities this week, you’d be forgiven for forgetting about Covid-19, with people flocking to high street cafés, bars, country pubs and beer gardens. Masks are still mandatory in many shops, on public transport and in hospitals and care homes. But apart from that, there are few visible signs of the pandemic.
Yet intensive care units in the country’s hospitals are filling up rapidly with Covid patients. Doctors and health experts warn of even tougher times ahead once temperatures fall. The surge in hospital admissions is mainly due to the poor vaccination rates in Germany. Less than 60 per cent of the population have been fully vaccinated. And there are huge regional discrepancies. While in the small northern state of Bremen, the figure is nearer 80 per cent, just a little more than half the residents of Saxony have received their two jabs. The anti-vaxxer movement is particularly strong in former GDR regions, where skepticism against state-run vaccination schemes runs high and mixes with all sorts of fake news and disinformation on all aspects of the pandemic. But this isn‘t a problem confined to the East of Germany. All Western regions are also far off the 85+ per cent vaccination levels would bring the country closer to herd immunity.