The unusual public remarks by Germany's First Husband comes as the country faces a new wave of COVID-19 infections and trails European neighbors in vaccination rates.
TURIN — As Germany faces a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Angela Merkel has warned of a "highly dramatic" situation "that will surpass anything we have had before."
The sense of urgency of the German leader, who remains the country's Chancellor for a few more weeks, is apparently shared at home: In highly unusual public remarks, Merkel's husband, the acclaimed scientist Joachim Sauer, has lashed out at his fellow Germans who have refused to get vaccinated.
"It disturbs me greatly, more than anything else, that one-third of the German population are not open to the successes of science," he said in an interview published Tuesday in Italian daily La Stampa.
Having avoided the limelight for the past 15 years — he watched his wife's inauguration in 2005 on TV — Sauer has continued his work as a professor of physical and theoretical chemistry; and was in Italy for his appointment to the prestigious Turin Academy of Sciences.
Joachim Sauer, Merkel's husband, is a renowned chemist
Joachim Sauer, 72, has been married to Merkel since 1998es.m.wikipedia.org
An imaginary "dictatorship"
When asked why he thought that Germans didn't want to get vaccinated, he said: "A small portion are lazy and indolent, too comfortable. Then there are those who don't do it because of ideology, for irrational reasons: as if a dictatorship were trying to demolish our free will."
Sauer also praised Italy's performance vis-a-vis the pandemic, saying that the stark images of death from the first wave may have motivated people. "In the United States there were governors of states that have denied COVID. This did not happen with us, we did not have a Bolsonaro, and yet we are in the same situation."
Germany is behind other EU states in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, with only 67% of the total population now fully vaccinated, compared to 81% in Portugal, 74% in Spain and 72% in Italy. It is still ahead of the average EU vaccine rate thanks also to countries with very low rates such as Bulgaria (24%) and Romania (35%).
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