Germany has decided to impose stricter restrictions on anyone who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Outgoing German chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Thursday that anyone who do not have the vaccine will be unable to attend non-essential stores, restaurants, places of culture, or recreation.
Following a meeting between Merkel, her successor Olaf Scholz, and the heads of the country’s 16 regions, the new actions were implemented. They also stated that an obligatory vaccine draft bill, which Scholz supports, would be submitted to parliament in February or March for implementation.
Merkel told reporters in Berlin that the situation in her country was “severe,” and that the move was a “act of national solidarity.” Officials also agreed to enforce masks in schools, set new limits on private gatherings, and set a goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year, according to her.
Merkel also stated that parliament will discuss the prospect of adopting a blanket vaccine mandate that would take effect in February. In Germany, around 68.7% of the population is fully vaccinated, well behind the government’s target of 75 percent. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is poised to be elected chancellor by a centre-left coalition next week, said on Tuesday that while he supports a general vaccine mandate, he prefers parliamentarians voting on the issue based on their personal conscience rather than party lines.
Scientists and medics have warned that the surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, as well as the arrival of the novel omicron strain, could cause medical services in the country to become overburdened in the coming weeks unless immediate action is done. Because of a scarcity of intensive care beds, some hospitals in Germany’s south and east have already relocated patients to other regions of the nation.
The political structure of Germany — with the 16 states accountable for many of the regulations — and the current change at the federal level have made it difficult to agree on what steps to take. On Thursday, the German disease control agency recorded 73,209 additional confirmed cases. The Robert Koch Institute also announced 388 new COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths to 102,178 since the outbreak began.