German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Wednesday the so-called British variant of COVID-19 is spreading quickly in his country, now accounting for more than 20 percent of all tested cases, and nearly four times the rate of two weeks earlier.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Spahn said that rate of spread indicates the variant virus strain, first identified in Britain, roughly doubles each week, as has been seen in other countries where it has been found. He said he expects it will soon become the dominant strain found in Germany.
Spahn said the good news is that overall, the number of new infections is decreasing, a sign that preventive measures, including the current lockdown, are working. He said German health officials will have to be exceptionally careful regarding the British strain when the country starts to ease restrictions.
Spahn said he expects Germany's vaccination program to "significantly pick up speed" in the next several days. He said vaccination centers are becoming more efficient, and by the end of next week, they should have delivered 10 million additional doses.
The health minister urged all those whose turn it is to receive the vaccine do so as soon as possible, so the largest number of people can be protected. He also sought to reassure those reluctant to get vaccinated because of safety concerns.
"If a vaccine is approved by the European Union following a rigorous approval process, then it is safe and effective," he said.
Spahn said those who wait also make the situation worse for everyone.
"Reason dictates that people should get vaccinated in a pandemic and those who wait risk a serious illness and spreading the virus," he said.