Germany sets European record with one million Covid vaccine injections in a day
French inoculation drive gathers pace but infection rates in Europe still high
Germany set a European record for Covid-19 vaccinations by injecting more than one million patients in a day.
Official figures show that 1,088,952 doses were administered across the country on Wednesday.
GPs delivered more than 730,000 doses, while a further 360,000 shots were put into arms at vaccine centres. Only the US, China and India, with their much larger populations, have administered more shots in a day.
Germany is at the vanguard of Europe’s accelerating Covid-19 vaccine drive after a sluggish start across the continent.
The vaccine drive was also gathering pace in France, with all adults eligible for vaccines from June 15.
This weekend, vaccinations will be available to another four million people in France, with those aged 18-50 with chronic illnesses, such as heart conditions, high blood pressure or obesity, now eligible.
Inoculations are key to French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reopen the country as it battles a third coronavirus wave.
More than 15 million people have received a first Covid injection in France, or 29 per cent of the adult population, but so far the shots have been reserved for the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions and pregnant women.
Germany has given a first dose to 25.9 per cent of the population, while 7.5 per cent are fully immunised with two. At the start of April, the first dose figure was about 12 per cent.
“That shows how much speed we’ve gained,” German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
“It’s not enough yet to gain herd immunity in the population, but every shot offers protection.”
The country is suppressing its third wave of Covid-19, with the national seven-day incidence rate falling.
It recorded 155 cases per 100,000 – above the threshold of 100 that triggers the “emergency brake” closure of stores, schools, restaurants and cultural venues.
Germany’s number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care fell for a third consecutive day on Thursday to 5,015, considerably fewer than the peak of 5,745 during the second wave in early January.
Still, infections are too high and continue to rise in people under 60, the Robert Koch Institute said.
A further 3,300 cases and 264 deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours, taking Germany’s Covid-19 death toll to 82,544.
“The pandemic is unfortunately not over and it won’t be under control until it’s under control in every part of the world,” Robert Koch Institute director Prof Lothar Wieler said.
Mr Spahn said numbers needed to keep going down before the safe relaxation of social restrictions.
He said all German adults will become eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine by June, but that there might not be enough supplies to vaccinate everyone until late summer.
In France, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the timetable for lifting Covid restrictions was "cautious and pragmatic” – a day after Mr Macron set out his plan for the staged lifting of current measures.
Museums, theatres, cinemas and concert halls will reopen with limited capacity on May 19, as will non-essential shops and outdoor seating at cafes and restaurants.
Those cafes and restaurants will have to wait until June 9 to serve clients indoors.
The current night-time curfew with a 7pm start will be progressively eased – to 9pm on May 19 and 11pm on June 9 – before it is scrapped on June 30.
Mr Attal said infection trends had been slowing for several weeks and the vaccination drive was gathering pace, justifying the looser restrictions.
"French people want their lives to return to normal progressively and we must take that into account," he said.
But socialist party chief Olivier Faure warned the government to avoid a rerun of "the risks it took in January” – a reference to Mr Macron's refusal to respond to rising Covid-19 case numbers with the current lockdown.
Centre-right deputy Guillaume Larrive said he was "still worried" by the latest pandemic data.
Updated: April 30, 2021 06:03 PM