On Thursday, German leaders agreed on tough new curbs for the unvaccinated, with plans to shut them out of restaurants, sporting events and cultural shows as the country struggles to stop a record increase in Covid infections.
With new cases soared to a record level of 65,371, leaders for Germanys 16 states agreed after crisis talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel to require that those who are not immunized should give negative tests to be able to use public transport or go to the office.
To protect the most vulnerable, they also agreed to introduce mandatory vaccination for care staff and employees in nursing homes.
“We need to quickly curb the exponential increase” of falls and intensive care beds, Merkel said, calling the situation “very dramatic”.
Unvaccinated people will be banned from certain public spaces in areas with a hospital stay rate of more than three patients per 100,000 people over the past seven days.
Currently, all of Germany’s 16 states except Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland have a course over three.
The so-called “2G” rule – which allows only vaccinated and recovered – will apply to large events as well as leisure and sports facilities.
Areas with a hospital stay frequency of more than six will need to introduce a “2G plus” rule, where participants will need to be tested as well as vaccinated, and regions with a frequency above nine will need to introduce additional measures such as contact restrictions.
“Very difficult situation”
“With the current dynamics, we end up in a very, very difficult situation, especially for all people working in hospitals and especially in intensive care,” Merkel said.
The outgoing Chancellor called on more Germans to be vaccinated and said bluntly that “many measures that must now be taken would not have been necessary if we had had more vaccinated”.
The regional leaders also want the 2G rule to be applied to Bundesliga footballers.
Last month, Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich sparked a nationwide debate on vaccinations after admitting he had chosen not to get the stick.
After strong pressure in the spring, Germany’s inoculation rate had stagnated during the summer to hover at just under 70 percent.
Despite the rise in infections in recent weeks, politicians have been accused of passivity and instead focusing their attention on negotiations to form Germany’s next government after the September elections.
The political tangle was fully shown earlier on Thursday in Parliament’s lower house when a heated argument broke out when MEPs were asked to vote on a bill providing the legal framework for Merkel and regional leaders to implement the new measures.
The three political parties in talks to form Germany’s next government had drafted a new bill to replace the current legislation that would expire on November 25 and adopted it in the Bundestag where they have a majority.
But Merkel’s conservative CDU-CSU bloc says the new bill is weaker than the current law and has threatened to defeat it on Friday in the upper house of parliament – something that could still delay decisions made by regional leaders on Thursday.
RKI chief Lothar Wieler, one of the country’s foremost immunologists, has expressed frustration over the political stalemate.
“We do not have to keep inventing something new. All the ideas and recipes we need are available,” he said.
“After 21 months, I simply can not stand that what I say and what other colleagues say is still not accepted,” he added.
Wieler warned that the actual number of infections could be up to three times higher than official data indicates, as many infections are not detected or tested.
“We are currently in a serious emergency. We will really have a very bad Christmas if we do not change course now,” he said.