ESCHWEILER, GERMANY – Germany is expected to mark 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week, surpassing a memorable milestone that some neighboring countries surpassed months ago but this most populous country in Western Europe was hoping to avoid.
Teutonic discipline, a robust health care system, and the launch of numerous vaccines – one of them homegrown – to prevent the winter spike that occurred in Germany in last.
However, complacency and a national election, followed by a protracted transition of government, have seen senior politicians with the prospect of further lifting restrictions even as rates rise. Germany’s infections rose steadily this fall.
Uwe Janssens, head of the intensive care unit at St. Antonius of Eschweiler, west of Cologne, said: “Nobody has the courage to go ahead and announce unpopular measures.
“This lack of leadership is why we are here now,” he said.
Doctors like Janssens are bracing for a massive influx of coronavirus patients as confirmed cases hit new daily highs that experts say are also being fueled by vaccine skeptics.
Resistance to the firing – including one developed by German company Biontech together with US partner Pfizer – remains strong among a significant minority of the country. Vaccination rates have stopped at 68% of the population, far below the 75% or higher the government has targeted.
“We have more and more young people in intensive care,” says Janssens. “The length of time they were in treatment was significantly longer and it blocked the intensive care beds for a longer period of time.”
Older adults who get vaccinated early in 2021 are also experiencing reduced immunity, making them more susceptible to serious illness again, he said. Problems arose during the initial rollout of the vaccine, with authorities struggling to meet demand for the boosters even as they tried to incentivize holders to get the first shot. .
Some German politicians suggest that it is time to consider the mandate to vaccinate, either for specific professions or for the entire population. Austria took that step last week, announcing that COVID-19 vaccinations would become mandatory for everyone starting February after a similar reluctance to vaccinate fuel flare-ups and hospitalization.
In June, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in June that she did not support such a measure. Signaling a possible change of position, Ms. Merkel summoned leaders from the three parties who are negotiating the formation of the next government for talks on Tuesday at the chancellor to discuss the situation. epidemic.
Merkel’s likely successor, incumbent Finance Minister Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats, refused to see if he would back off mandatory COVID-19 shots.
Along with environmentalist Greens and pro-business Liberal Democrats, his party recently passed legislation that replaces existing regulatory foundations on pandemic curbs with narrower, mandatory measures. starting on Wednesday. These include requiring workers to provide their employers with proof of vaccinations, rehab or a negative test. However, the change also makes it difficult for Germany’s 16 governors to impose tough sanctions without the approval of state assemblies.
Getting those big chunks can be hardest in states where case numbers are the highest. A recent study found higher infection rates in areas where support is greatest for the far-right Alternative for Germany, a party that has campaigned against pandemic restrictions.
Last week, Saxony, an eastern state with the highest infection rate and where the German Alternative is particularly strong, announced that crematoriums would be allowed to operate on Sunday to cope with the number of people. higher than normal mortality.
Meanwhile, German authorities have activated an emergency system to coordinate the distribution of critically ill patients across the country. Earlier this month, two patients were brought from southern Germany to Italy for treatment, a significant change from last year, when Italian patients were sent to German hospitals.
Germany boasts nearly four times as many intensive care beds per capita as Italy then, a factor experts say was key to Germany’s low death toll at the time. .
Since January, Germany has had to cut the capacity of its 4,000-bed ICU due to staff shortages, many of whom have been laid off because of the pressure they suffered earlier during the pandemic.
Janssens talks about the situation doctors and nurses face with this, physically and psychologically in the coming months.
“We’re going to survive, somehow,” he added.
The World Health Organization’s European office warned this week that hospital bed availability will determine how well the region copes with the expected increase in the coming months – along with vaccination rate.
Based on current trends, Europe could see another 700,000 deaths reported across the region of 53 countries next spring, with 49 countries expected to witness.” extreme or extreme stress in the intensive care unit,” the agency said on Tuesday.
Jordans reported from Berlin.