The country also intends to allow people who have been fully immunized or who have recovered from the disease privileges such as going shopping and visiting hairdressers without needing negative coronavirus tests, Merkel said after talks with regional leaders on Monday. Officials didn’t agree though on firm details.
Following weeks of tension over pandemic policy and a sputtering vaccine campaign, the German chancellor was under pressure to lay out a path toward more normality after a controversial lockdown law went into effect over the weekend. The legislation, which sparked protests, triggered curfews and tougher restrictions across most of the country.
Germany’s inoculation rates have ramped up quickly in recent weeks. It took about three months for 10% of the population to get their first shot, with the next 10% getting an initial dose in the first three weeks of April, Merkel said. The pace should continue to accelerate, with deliveries of 80 million doses expected in the second quarter, she added.
Germany and the rest of the European Union have trailed other developed countries in getting their vaccine campaign up and running. Europe’s largest economy has inoculated 7% of the population fully, compared with almost 19% in Britain and more than 28% in the U.S., according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Germany is battling a stubborn “third wave” of the coronavirus and remains in partial lockdown, with strict curbs such as nighttime curfews in place for hot spots. The national seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people declined slightly on Tuesday but remains above a level that triggers the closing of stores, schools, restaurants and cultural venues in most parts of the country.
Increasingly, private medical practices will take on more of the load from vaccination centers. Supplies to local doctors will soon rise to 2 million doses a week from 1 million, and company medical staff will be allowed to immunize people beginning in June, Merkel said.
Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, suggested Germany will be able to get the pandemic under control by June, potentially allowing people to take summer vacations.
“If we have a broad willingness among citizens to get vaccinated, then we can have a nice summer,” Braun said Tuesday in an interview with ARD television.
(Updates with comments from Merkel’s chief of staff in last two paragraphs)
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