Europe does not have enough vaccine to stave off a third wave of Covid-19 infections, the German health minister said on Friday, just days after the EU warned it would review the export of jabs from the bloc amid a shortfall.
“There is not yet enough vaccine in Europe to stop the third wave through vaccinations alone,” Jens Spahn said in Berlin during a weekly news conference.
“We may even have to take steps backwards,” Spahn said as he explained that the rising number of cases could mean reimposing health measures designed to curb the spread of the virus, such as lockdowns.
Germany’s infection rate is now “very clearly exponential”, its disease-control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said on Friday, as the country posted around 17,000 new coronavirus cases – 5,000 more than on the same day last week.
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The German city of Hamburg announced on Friday it would become the country’s first to reenter a hard lockdown amid its high incidence rate of infection.
The more transmissible UK variant of the virus, B117, has forced Germany and other European nations to impose stricter health curbs in a bid to stem a Covid-19 third wave.
The Italian government announced last week that the whole country would be locked down in the runup to Easter, while yesterday France ordered lockdowns in 16 areas, including Paris.
This week the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, warned of a third wave due to B117, while stressing that the 27-member bloc is facing a vaccine shortfall.
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She said the EU “will have to reflect” on allowing exports to reach countries like the UK that have higher vaccination rates than among its member states.
She singled out the drugmaker AstraZeneca, which she said had cut its agreed number of doses to be delivered to the EU in the first quarter from 90 million to a projected 30 million.
In terms of vaccination, scientists at the University of Warwick in the UK found this week that jabs alone will not contain Covid-19 infections.
The study could come as a blow to the UK, which, like the EU, was reported this week to be facing a shortage of AstraZeneca vaccine coming from outside the country.
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