BERLIN (REUTERS) – German police searched several locations in the eastern state of Saxony on Wednesday (Dec 15) as part of an investigation into what they said was a plot to murder the state’s prime minister, Mr Michael Kretschmer, by anti-vaccination activists.
The searches in the city of Dresden targeted individual members of a group on the messaging app Telegram, where plans for the killing were discussed in connection with the state government’s coronavirus curbs, police said.
The group “Dresden Offlinevernetzung”, or Dresden offline networking, came to the attention of authorities after an investigation published last week by broadcaster ZDF.
The ZDF report revealed that members of the Telegram group spoke about killing representatives of the Saxony state government at meetings in Dresden.
Special forces took part in Wednesday’s raids launched after statements by members of the Telegram group suggested that they might be in possession of sharp weapons and crossbows, Saxony police said on Twitter.
Saxony, which has the second highest rate of new coronavirus cases in Germany and the lowest vaccination rate, has seen protests by opponents of coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks.
Last month, a group of protesters held a torch-lit gathering outside the home of Saxony’s interior minister, in what was widely seen as an implicit threat of violence against her.
Separately, Germany’s new Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he’s in direct contact with manufacturers of Covid-19 vaccines to increase deliveries after an inventory revealed a shortage in supplies.
“We have a shortage of vaccine for the first quarter and I have already been working for several days to correct it,” Dr Lauterbach, who took office last week, said late on Tuesday in an interview with ARD television.
“I hope I can communicate a positive message about this in the next few days,” he added. “But it’s right that we have too little vaccine and that surprised many when we did the inventory, myself included.”
Germany’s vaccine campaign has been less successful than in other developed nations, with just 69.7 per cent of the population fully inoculated as of Tuesday. That compares with almost 80 per cent in France and nearly 75 per cent in Italy, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.
The pace of vaccinations has picked up in recent weeks, with the focus shifting to administering as many booster shots as possible to lift immunity levels and ward off the potentially rapid spread of the new omicron variant of the disease.
Germany’s new chancellor, Mr Olaf Scholz, has backed the introduction of mandatory vaccinations by the first quarter of next year, and the lower house of parliament is expected to vote on it in coming weeks.
Dr Lauterbach said that it will probably be impossible to ward off Omicron completely, given it’s contagiousness, and urged more people to get their booster shots.
“We can assume that vaccination only works really well against the Omicron variant after the booster shot,” he told ARD. “The pace of booster shots and especially the number of those who aren’t vaccinated will be decisive.”