A top official said Monday that Germans will be “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the end of winter as Europe scrambles to stem another wave of the coronavirus at the start of the Christmas season, sparking a cycle of restrictions and raucous protests.
Austrians were told to stay home for 10 days, starting Monday, except to go to work or to school, or to get groceries or exercise, prompting thousands to protest in the streets of Vienna. Similar protests against COVID-19 rules broke out in Belgium and the Netherlands over the weekend.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called the protests “pure violence” by “idiots,” and Belgian leader Alexander de Croo called a similar protest by 35,000 in Brussels “absolutely unacceptable,” according to Agence France-Presse.
In Germany, departing Chancellor Angela Merkel said infections are doubling every 12 days in a “highly dramatic situation,” prompting a dire warning from a top health official.
“Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
Officials are blaming the surge on poor vaccination rates in pockets of their respective countries as the weather cools and people huddle indoors, creating opportunities for the virus to spread.
In Germany, vaccination rates lag in eastern regions such as Saxony, where cultural sites, restaurants, bars and Christmas markets will be shut down for three weeks, according to Deutsche Welle media.
Some people see Europe’s wave as a warning for the U.S., where cases climbed to more than 90,000 per day after a decrease to the low 70,000s in late October. Hospitalizations have ticked above 50,000.
The U.S. was in a worse position at the start of Thanksgiving last year, recording 170,000 cases per day and averaging 90,000 hospitalizations before the vaccine drive began the following month.
Even so, scientists say things are about to get worse.
“We’re experiencing the beginning of a winter wave, the consequences of too many unvaccinated and the need for boosters to halt infection,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Federal and state officials haven’t floated new lockdown measures, despite the worsening picture. Officials advised people to avoid holiday gatherings last year, but the Biden administration on Thursday told Americans they should be safe to enjoy Thanksgiving with fellow vaccinated persons.
The White House is pleading with unvaccinated persons to come forward for the shots and for immunized persons to obtain an extra dose of one of three approved vaccines.
Cyrus Shahpar, the COVID-19 data coordinator for the White House, tweeted that 461,000 people came forward to get vaccinated on Sunday and 890,000 came forward for a booster shot.
As it stands, 4 in 10 Americans are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 18% of the fully vaccinated — about 35 million people — have received a booster.
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.