BERLIN (Reuters) – German coronavirus cases posted their biggest daily increase in five weeks on Thursday, as calls grew to allow family doctors to start administering COVID-19 vaccines sooner to speed up the rollout.
The number of new reported coronavirus cases rose by 14,356 data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed, almost 2,500 more than a week ago and the biggest daily increase since Feb. 4.
RKI President Lothar Wieler said he was very concerned by the rising numbers given there were still many vulnerable people that needed to be vaccinated.
“In Germany particularly, I see the beginning of the third wave,” he told a U.N. briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, urging people to stick to the physical distancing rules and wear masks.
“We have to vaccinate as soon as possible, as much as possible, strategically,” he added, noting the incidence of the virus had declined “tremendously” in those aged over 80, but was rising in other age groups.
Germany’s vaccination campaign has got off to a sluggish start, hampered by a shortage of doses and bureaucracy. Only 6.9% of the 83 million population has received at least a first dose against the coronavirus, far behind countries such as Britain, Israel and the United States.
The head of the German Ethics Council called for the government to let surgeries start administering shots as soon as possible. “It’s an ethical imperative to make progress on vaccination now,” Alena Buyx told RTL/nTV television.
On Wednesday, regional and national health ministers agreed family doctors should start administering shots from mid-April. But they also decided that mass vaccination centres should still continue to receive at least 2.25 million doses per week.
This means doses will not be available in sufficient supplies for doctors’ surgeries until May, the head of the KBV doctors’ association told ZDF television.
The premier of Saxony Michael Kretschmer, however, rejected the criticism, telling ZDF that mass vaccination centres had the highest throughput and remained the fastest way to get shots in arms.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley and Andreas Rinke; Additional reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Alison Williams)