A German politician who refused a coronavirus vaccine and condemned what he called the alarmism of public health policies has died of Covid-19.
Bernd Grimmer, from the far-right Alternative for Germany party (AfD), played down the threat of the virus and spoke up for the millions of unvaccinated people whose reluctance to get a shot has frustrated policymakers.
Mr Grimmer, 71, was a member of the regional parliament in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg. He started his political career in the left-leaning Green party before moving to an independent group and finally to the AfD.
Moderators on Mr Grimmer’s official Facebook page confirmed he had died from the virus, which has killed more than 100,000 people in Germany. They condemned what they said were insensitive remarks about his death.
In a lengthy tribute, local AfD leaders Andreas Muerter and Dirk Spaniel defended Mr Grimmer’s decision to refuse a vaccine.
“There was no doubt he knew the risks. He nonetheless decided against, because freedom was more important to him,” they wrote.
“He didn’t want to be turned into a guinea pig by the pharmaceutical lobby and politicians from the old parties.”
Peter Boch, the centre-right mayor of Mr Grimmer’s home town of Pforzheim, said it was the second time a local politician had died from Covid-19.
“It’s a shocking and depressing moment to find out that a valued colleague and person has been taken from us so suddenly and unexpectedly,” Mr Boch said.
Mr Grimmer had described Germany as a “sick patient” in its handling of coronavirus, criticised lockdowns and accused politicians of stirring up panic.
He spoke out against what he saw as alarmism, and described Germany in September as being in an “advanced stage of collective insanity” over the virus.
Mocking the attention paid to virus deaths last year, he suggested people should stay in bed to ensure they were not injured by household curtains.
On another occasion he suggested that politicians wanted to “get people used to being patronised by the state”.
His comments echoed those by other AfD politicians and members, some of whom have taken part in protests against restrictions.
One poll suggested that 50 per cent of unvaccinated people had voted for the AfD at September’s general election. The party won only 10 per cent of the overall vote.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat who supports making vaccines compulsory, said he did not think the country was divided despite public frustration at the unvaccinated.
But AfD leader Alice Weidel said on Wednesday, after state leaders agreed a new round of restrictions, that Mr Scholz’s view was mistaken.
“More and more people have had enough of policies that take away their freedom,” she said.