BERLIN (AFP) - Chancellor Angela Merkel's husband on Tuesday (Nov 23) accused unvaccinated Germans of "laziness" as the country struggles to contain a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections.
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 per cent 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 and picked up by German daily Die Welt.
"In part, this is due to a certain laziness and complacency of Germans," said Sauer, who rarely speaks in public.
"The other group are people who follow a personal conviction, a kind of ideological reaction to what they consider a vaccination dictatorship," Sauer said, a cohort he said also included doctors and scientists.
Like his famous wife, Sauer is a quantum chemist and was in Italy on an academic visit. The couple keep a low profile and Sauer rarely speaks to the media.
One of the few occasions when they are photographed together is during their annual visit to the Bayreuth opera festival.
Sauer added that Germans' vaccine hesitancy was all the more regrettable given the "miracle" of how quickly safe and effective jabs were developed during the pandemic.
Sauer's comments come a day after Merkel warned that Germany wasn't doing enough to curb the "highly dramatic" fourth wave of the pandemic.
The outgoing chancellor, who is acting in a caretaker capacity and will likely be replaced by Finance Minister Olaf Scholz next month, has repeatedly urged Germans to get vaccinated.
The sluggish vaccine uptake and rapidly filling intensive care beds have ignited a fierce debate about whether Germany should follow Austria's example and make coronavirus jabs compulsory.
Merkel's government has in the past always ruled out doing so, but several leading politicians, including Bavarian premier Markus Soeder, have in recent days called for mandatory vaccinations.