German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday Germany has fallen behind other European countries in its COVID-19 vaccination efforts, and with new infections on the rise, the government must take steps to speed up the program or run the risk of seeing its health care system overwhelmed.
Merkel spoke to reporters Tuesday following a meeting with Germany’s 16 state governors. She said they are all in agreement that the federal, state and local governments must promote vaccinations and make them easy to obtain.
The German chancellor encouraged all who have been vaccinated to promote vaccination to their friends, families and social groups.
Merkel also announced the government would stop paying for COVID-19 testing beginning October 11 as an incentive to get vaccinated. At the same time, Germany will begin requiring proof of vaccination, a negative test or proof of recovery to access venues such as restaurants, cinemas and gyms in areas where infection rates rise above a certain threshold.
Merkel said the country has sufficient vaccines for its population — more than half is already fully immunized — and that studies have shown them to be effective in preventing severe cases of COVID-19 and highly infectious variants, such as the delta strain.
The German leader said those who prefer testing rather than getting vaccinated will have to pay for it after October 11.
"Those who were vaccinated no longer have to get a test, and those who are vaccinated surely will be treated differently to those who are not vaccinated should the infection rate rise further,” Merkel said. “But we can't allow our health system to be overburdened. We simply can't take responsibility for that.”
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.