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Coronavirus

Merkel’s Husband Calls German No-Vaxxers “Lazy” And “Irrational”

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.

A sheet at a protest that says VAXXED

An anti-Vaxx protest in Munich

Irene Caselli

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

Medium cose up of Joachim Sauer in a suit

Joachim Sauer, 72, has been married to Merkel since 1998

es.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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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Kharkiv Revisited: Inside Russia's New Assault On The "Hero City" Of Ukraine

The nation's second-largest city, Kharkiv was quiet for weeks after Ukrainian forces took control. But now it is again under attack as Russia pushes to capture the city that's considered the "gateway" to Ukraine. Die Welt reports from the frontline.

Damages due to Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Alfred Hackensberger

KHARKIV — "Come, I want to show you something," Denys Vezenych says, opening the door of his dental office.

The 40-year-old begins to tell the story in the waiting room: "It was April 16 when the Russian artillery shell hit. The windowpanes were broken, the walls had holes everywhere and the roof was destroyed. But I renovated everything."

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The repairs cost him several thousand euros. "You have to think positively, because life goes on," he explains with a smile. But this attitude is not so present generally in Saltivka, a neighborhood in northeastern Kharkiv. The dental practice may be like new, but the rest of this area in the northeastern Ukrainian city is completely destroyed.

The Russian army has done a great job in its three-month offensive on Ukraine's second largest metropolis. Countless flats have been burned out, the facades of houses have been shot to pieces, entire shopping centers have been bombed. Debris still lie in the streets everywhere.

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