Chancellor Angela Merkel's husband on Tuesday accused unvaccinated Germans of "laziness" as the country struggles to contain a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections. His remarks come after German Health Minister Jens Spahn urged more citizens to get the jab.
Germany's Covid-19 resurgence has, in part, been blamed on its relatively low vaccination rate compared with other Western European nations like France, Italy or Spain, with just 68 percent of the population fully jabbed.
"It is astonishing that a third of the population does not follow scientific findings," Merkel's husband, Joachim Sauer, said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"In part, this is due to a certain laziness and complacency of Germans," said Sauer, who rarely speaks in public.
Earlier in the week, German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned Germans they would be "vaccinated, cured or dead" from Covid-19 by the end of winter, as Europe battles an upsurge in the pandemic that prompted a US travel advisory.
Meanwhile, Belgium and the Netherlands are still reeling from clashes that rocked weekend protests against new anti-Covid measures.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte labelled three nights of unrest "pure violence" by "idiots" and his Belgian counterpart Alexander De Croo called violence at a 35,000-strong protest in Brussels "absolutely unacceptable".
Europe's return as the pandemic's epicentre has been blamed on a sluggish vaccine uptake in some nations, the highly contagious Delta variant and colder weather pushing people indoors again.
Elsewhere, the US State Department urged Americans on Monday not to travel to Germany and Denmark because of the explosion in case numbers in the the past week.
The department issued Level 4 travel advisories -- the highest level -- for both nations - "indicating a very high level of Covid-19 in the country".
Germany not doing enough?
Meanwhile, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany's current Covid restrictions -- including barring the unvaccinated from certain public spaces -- "are not enough".
She told a meeting of leaders of her conservative CDU party that the situation was "highly dramatic", according to participants.
With intensive care beds swiftly filling up, Germany's worst-hit regions have ordered new shutdowns, including the closure of Christmas markets.
The restrictions mirror those in neighbouring Austria, which closed shops, restaurants and festive markets on Monday, the most drastic restrictions seen in Western Europe for months.
Its 8.9 million people are allowed to leave home only to go to work, shop for essentials or exercise.
Across the border in Slovakia, unvaccinated people are also facing curbs that will stop them from entering non-essential stores.
But in a stark reminder that inoculation does not necessarily stop infection, French Prime Minister Jean Castex tested positive on Monday despite being fully vaccinated.
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Castex, who will isolate for 10 days, tested positive after a meeting in Brussels with De Croo, whose office later announced he and several ministers would quarantine.