Germany announced a series of tough new restrictions targeting people who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19, outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday, the latest country to crackdown on vaccine holdouts to combat soaring coronavirus cases and ease the burden on overwhelmed hospitals.
- The new restrictions will mean unvaccinated people are barred from almost all businesses and public spaces, Merkel announced, citing Germany’s “very serious” coronavirus situation as an explanation for the new measures.
- There will also be caps on the numbers of people who can attend indoor venues like nightclubs.
- Vaccination could become compulsory from February, Merkel said, pending approval from Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag.
Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz met with the heads of Germany’s 16 states Thursday to discuss new measures to combat the new wave of coronavirus tearing through the country. The country is fighting one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks and reported its highest number of Covid-19 deaths since mid-February on Wednesday. Around 70% of its population are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe, and experts have warned hospitals are dangerously close to breaking point. Spahn has said that by spring, “pretty much everyone in Germany... will be vaccinated, cured or dead." Four fully-vaccinated people in southern Germany tested positive for the omicron variant this week, prompting calls for even tougher restrictions.
"Get a vaccine, get a booster, that's how we get out of this crisis," said Scholz, reported Deutsche Welle.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Bundestag debate and vote on compulsory vaccination. Mandatory shots have been a heated point of discussion in Germany ever since its southern neighbor Austria announced plans to require the shot in all adults, joining just a handful of countries around the world to do so. While Merkel repeatedly pushed back against mandating the shot during her time in office—preferring education and awareness over coercion—she has reportedly changed her mind and said she would vote for the measure if she were a member of parliament. Scholz has been more vocal in his support of the idea, telling local media the country’s high infection rate and relatively low vaccination rate warrants tougher measures. Scholz said he will support a mandate but will allow members of parliament a free vote.