A “certain laziness” among many Germans is partly to blame for the country’s disappointing vaccination rate, the husband of Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.
In rare public comments, Joachim Sauer said that a third of the German people “do not listen to science”.
About 67 per cent of Germans are fully vaccinated, a rate which politicians believe is too low to contain a surging autumn outbreak.
Mr Sauer, 72, who like the chancellor is a trained scientist, told Italian newspaper La Repubblica that apathy and hard-line vaccine scepticism were both at fault.
Asked how he would explain the vaccination rate, he said: “Partly with a certain laziness and comfort of the German people.
“The others, on the other hand, are people who follow a personal conviction, a sort of ideological reaction to what they consider a vaccine dictatorship.”
Germany’s coronavirus measures have triggered protests throughout the pandemic from so-called “lateral thinkers”, who have caused alarm because of their links to far-right groups.
Discussing those who question mainstream science, Mr Sauer said: “There has probably always been this attitude in some, but it has never been as evident as in this period.”
About 15 million adults are not fully vaccinated in Germany, along with 2.5 million teenagers who are eligible for the shot.
Other major countries in Western Europe, such as Britain, France, Italy and Spain, have higher rates of vaccination.
Politicians have sought to tighten the screw on unvaccinated people by increasingly shutting them out of public life as the outbreak worsens.
They face being banned from restaurants, hair salons, museums and sports venues in areas where the pressure on hospitals is too high.
The public was told by Health Minister Jens Spahn on Monday that they were likely to end up “vaccinated, cured or dead” by the end of winter.
Ms Merkel, 67, told party colleagues that the current outbreak would be the worst yet, with hospitals coming under increasing pressure.
Mr Sauer, a quantum chemist at Humboldt University in Berlin, married the future chancellor in 1998, but largely keeps out of the public eye. He was in Italy to receive a diploma from a scientific academy.
Born Angela Kasner, Ms Merkel kept her surname from an earlier marriage. She is expected to leave office in the coming weeks when a new coalition government is formed.