Merkel vows to increase pace of coronavirus vaccination campaign

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Berlin, Jan. 10 (BNA): German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday vowed to increase the pace of a nationwide coronavirus vaccination program.

"It's been a slow start," Merkel said in her weekly podcast. "A few hundred thousand people have been vaccinated, and the number is increasing every day - the pace will increase," according to Deutsche press agency (dpa).

The latest statistics from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control showed, roughly half a million people have received the first of two doses of the vaccine, averaging out at around 40,000 vaccinations carried out per day in the country of 83 million.

The government has come under pressure to up the speed and order more vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, but has argued that supply and production still need to catch up with demand.

"We will have enough vaccines for everyone in Germany," Merkel said, adding that in a few months authorities would "be able to offer a vaccination to anyone who wants it."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Jens Spahn warned that those offered a vaccine would not be able to choose which type they got, due to the current scarcity of doses.

Spahn added that more than over half a million people have been vaccinated against Covid-19 since the vaccination roll out began in Germany at the end of December.

The leader of the southern state of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, meanwhile warned that Germany's lockdown would have to remain in place until at least January 31, and may have to be tightened in some places.

"We have to extend the lockdown that we now have and deepen it in some places," said Soeder on Saturday.

The comments come as German health authorities reported 24,694 new coronavirus infections and 1,083 new deaths within the previous 24 hours, the RKI announced on Saturday morning.

A record of 1,188 new deaths was reached on Friday. In the case of new infections registered within 24 hours, the highest value was reported on December 18, at 33,777, but this contained 3,500 late reports.

An interpretation of the data remains difficult because around Christmas and the turn of the year coronavirus cases were discovered, recorded and transmitted with a delay, according to the RKI.

According to the Association of Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM), the number of laboratory tests had fallen again over the turn of the year compared to Christmas week. Compared to the week before Christmas, the number has roughly halved in the past week.

The number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reported to the health authorities within seven days - the seven-day incidence - was 153.9 on Saturday morning. The previous high was reached on December 22 at 197.6.

However, the differences between the country's 16 federal states are enormous: Saxony had the highest incidence with 269.8, and Thuringia 232.4, while Bremen had the lowest value at 74. Because of the holidays, the weekly values should also be assessed with caution.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the RKI has counted 1,891,581 detected infections with the coronavirus in Germany. The total number of people who died has risen to 39,878. The RKI stated the number of those who had recovered at around 1,511,800.

H.F. /F.K.N.