BERLIN: Most Germans will be "vaccinated, cured or dead" from COVID-19 in a few months, Health Minister Jens Spahn warned on Monday (Nov 22) as he urged more citizens to get jabbed.
"Probably by the end of this winter, as is sometimes cynically said, pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead," Spahn said, blaming "the very contagious Delta variant".
"That is why we so urgently recommend vaccination," he added.
The stark warning comes as Germany is racing to contain a record rise in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, with hospitals sounding the alarm about overflowing intensive care units.
Despite widespread access to free coronavirus vaccines, just 68 per cent of the German population is fully vaccinated, a level experts say is too low to keep the pandemic under control.
Germany, the EU's most populous country, added another 30,643 cases on Monday, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to just over 5.3 million.
Almost 100,000 people have died so far, including 62 over the past 24 hours.
"We have a very, very difficult situation in many hospitals," Spahn said.
Germany last week announced tougher coronavirus curbs to contain the ferocious fourth wave of COVID-19.
In regions with high hospitalisation rates, the unvaccinated will be barred from public spaces like cinemas, gyms and indoor dining.
Employees are asked to return to working from home whenever possible, while anyone going into the workplace has to prove they are vaccinated, recovered or have recently tested negative - a system known as "3G".
The same rule applies to public transport in those areas.
Several of Germany's hardest-hit regions, including Bavaria and Saxony, have gone even further by cancelling large events such as Christmas markets and effectively barring the unvaccinated from non-essential public life.
All vaccinated adults have also been urged to get a booster shot to combat waning vaccine efficacy after six months.
But acting Chancellor Angela Merkel told leaders of her conservative party that measures being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Germany were insufficient and that stronger action needed to be taken.
"We are in a highly dramatic situation. What is in place now is not sufficient," she told CDU leaders in a meeting, according to two participants.
Merkel called on Germany's 16 federal states to decide on tough measures by Wednesday.
Neighbouring Austria imposed a full COVID-19 lockdown on Monday, and Spahn warned on Friday that Germany may follow.