German Chancellor Angela Merkel Tuesday urged all German residents to get vaccinated if they want to enjoy more freedom.
Merkel made the comments following a visit to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases (RKI) along with RKI President Lothar Wieler and Health Minister Jens Spahn.
The visit comes as the country has seen an uptick in its COVID-19 infection rate in the past week, from 4.9 people per 100,000 to 6.4. Germany also reported 646 new cases Tuesday, up from 440 a week ago.
At the same time, as of Tuesday, officials say 42.6 percent of German adults have been fully vaccinated and nearly 59 percent have received at least one shot. However, the vaccination rate has slowed over the past two weeks.
Merkel said she wants more people to get vaccinated in order to lift remaining COVID-19- related restrictions and avoid the possibility of future lockdowns. She said the more people are vaccinated, “the more freely we will be able to live again.”
She said, “We are at the beginning of the phase in which we are still promoting (vaccination), where we have more vaccines than we have people who want to be vaccinated.”
Germany has relaxed many restrictions on social gatherings in recent months, but people are still required to show negative test results or vaccine certificates to dine indoors and attend indoor events where capacity is limited. Masks are still required in stores.
With the highly contagious delta variant of the virus now the dominant strain in Germany, RKI official say the country will need at least 85 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated.
Unlike France, which announced Monday plans to make vaccinations mandatory for health care workers and others, Merkel said Germany will not go that route to reach its goals. Recent polls show about 90 percent of the population say they are willing to get vaccinated and the chancellor said encouraging voluntary vaccinations builds more confidence in the process.
Merkel stressed it is also important to maintain social distancing and other measures to prevent infections from spreading, even as more people are vaccinated, and to prevent further restrictions to be imposed.