Germany’s Covid-19 resurgence has in part been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate compared with other Western European nations like France, Italy or Spain, with just 68 percent of the population fully jabbed.
“It is astonishing that a third of the population does not follow scientific findings,” Merkel’s husband, Joachim Sauer, said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica and picked up by German daily Die Welt.
“In part, this is due to a certain laziness and complacency of Germans,” said Sauer, who rarely speaks in public.
“The other group are people who follow a personal conviction, a kind of ideological reaction to what they consider a vaccination dictatorship,” Sauer said, a cohort he said also included doctors and scientists.
Like his famous wife, Sauer is a quantum chemist and was in Italy on an academic visit.
The couple keep a low profile and Sauer rarely speaks to the media. One of the few occasions when they are photographed together is during their annual visit to the Bayreuth opera festival.
Sauer added that Germans’ vaccine hesitancy was all the more regrettable given the “miracle” of how quickly safe and effective jabs were developed during the pandemic.
Sauer’s comments come a day after Merkel warned that Germany wasn’t doing enough to curb the “highly dramatic” fourth wave of the pandemic.
The outgoing chancellor, who is acting in a caretaker capacity and will likely be replaced by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz next month, has repeatedly urged Germans to get vaccinated.
The sluggish vaccine uptake and rapidly filling intensive care beds have ignited a fierce debate about whether Germany should follow Austria’s example and make coronavirus jabs compulsory.
Merkel’s government has in the past always ruled out doing so, but several leading politicians, including Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, have in recent days called for mandatory vaccinations.
Free football tickets
Bavarian Premier Markus Söder, from Merkel’s conservative camp, and his Baden-Württemberg counterpart Winfried Kretschmann, from the Green party, issued a joint plea for mandatory jabs in the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper.
Society will “pay an ever higher price for a small part of the population” rejecting the vaccine offer, they warned, stressing that mandatory jabs were necessary “to give us back our freedoms”.
Hesse premier Volker Bouffier, whose state is home to the city of Mainz where the Pfizer/BioNTech jabs were co-developed, also came out in favour of compulsory Covid-19 jabs.
Merkel’s centre-right CDU party, which is gearing up for a stint as the opposition, urged the incoming Scholz-led coalition government to tell the German public where they stood on the issue.
In one novel attempt to entice Germans to get jabbed, a foundation in Frankfurt has invited more than 200 homeless people to turn up for free curry sausages and get inoculated at the same time.
Separately, local officials in Hanover said Tuesday they would give away 1,000 tickets to the January 23 second-division football game between Hannover 96 and Dynamo Dresden to those getting their first or booster jab in coming days.
Germany added 45,326 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency.
A further 309 people died, bringing the total toll since the start of the pandemic to just under 100,000.
Germany’s weekly incidence rate stood at 399.8 new infections per 100,000 people, an all-time high.