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COVID: German health chief receives death threats

October 15, 2021

Lothar Wieler, the president of the Robert Koch Institute for disease control, has said he received several threatening messages from critics of government policies over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters hold signs of German leaders reading 'guilty'
Germany's coronavirus restrictions, like elsewhere in the world, have caused widespread public protest Image: Reuters/A. Schmidt

Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany's infectious disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), on Friday said he'd been subject to several death threats during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I wish the situation was more pleasant, but I still get threats," Lothar Wieler told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

Threats follow a pattern

Wieler said the threats often come shortly after he is publicly accused of being responsible for the closure of schools.

In other instances, it has been when someone claims that the chief of the public health agencies is pushing for a new lockdown instead of freedom. "Then the threats, including death threats, increase massively," Wieler said. 

Despite the threats, Wieler said, he is unswayed when it comes to his job of informing the public. 

"The risk doesn't stop me from doing my duty. As long as I am an official of this state, I will serve responsibly," he said.

Other health officials targeted

Health officials around the world have faced similar threats. Last year the US' top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, received multiple violent threats over the course of several months this year. 

Thomas Patrick Connally Jr. was charged with sending threatening emails in July 2020. Threats have also been directed at members of Fauci's family, who receive around the clock security.

In Australia, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszcuk and Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, have been subjected to an online campaign of abuse that resulted in the latter's requiring police protection.

A Gold Coast man was found guilty of threatening the pair in a barrage of messages posted on social media.

mm,kb/wmr (AFP, dpa, epd)