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COVID: Germany set to approve curbs on unvaccinated

  • December 02, 2021

Acting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz are holding talks on Thursday with state leaders to agree new measures to curb a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases.

Unvaccinated people could soon be barred from access to almost all businesses, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, as leaders seek to avoid a return to a wider lockdown.

What’s being debated?

A draft agreement reported on by German media shows a host of measures could soon be implemented.

Federal and state leaders are expected to agree the following measures according to the draft:

  • COVID vaccine mandate starting end of February
  • Contact restrictions for unvaccinated individuals
  • Entrance to shops, restaurants, museums and movie theaters will be restricted only to vaccinated or recovered people.
  • Additional tests for those who are vaccinated could also be required
  • Capping mass events outdoors to 15,000 people
  • Capping indoor events to only 30% of the building’s capacity
  • Clubs would be required to close in areas where the incidence rate is over 350
  • Mask mandate in schools

The major sticking points concern implementing a vaccine mandate, as well as how much to curb the number of participants at large events.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    ICUs are full

    Hospitalization rates — the number of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 — have reached the highest levels of last December. Intensive care units are filling up, patients have to be transported across the country to hospitals that still have capacity. Operations have to be cancelled, leaving cancer sufferers and other patients in the lurch.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Longer stays

    A COVID-19 patient with venous access lines and a tracheostomy sits in the intensive care unit of Dresden’s municipal hospital. Using hospitalization rates as an incidence value is controversial: They show the incidence of infection, but only with a delay. Also, many COVID patients are younger than in previous waves. They spend longer in intensive care, meaning beds are not freed up as quickly.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Final warning

    Undertakers have been overwhelmed, with coffins lined up here in front of a crematorium oven. On one of the lids, the word “Corona” has been written in chalk — a warning to the people who work there. The elderly and the unvaccinated are still most at risk of dying of the virus, but there are more and more breakthrough infections.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Fears for the elderly…

    In recent weeks, there have been numerous outbreaks of COVID-19 in long-term care homes and retirement communities in which residents have died. This is one reason why the German government is considering mandatory vaccinations for health care workers. Italy, France and Greece have already made the move, and Austria will soon follow suit.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    …and for the young

    Self-testing in kindergartens and schools is now routine for children. No other population group is tested as regularly and extensively for COVID-19. Yet the incidence among 5 to 14-year-olds is up to three times higher than average. In an effort to stem a rise in cases, the European Medicines Agency approved the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine on November 25.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Virus along for the ride

    Since last week, new rules have applied in trains, trams and buses, such as here in Hamburg: Only those who have been vaccinated, tested negative, or have recently recovered from infection can use them. Drivers and on-board personnel are supposed to enforce this rule, but can only really do spot checks. Mask-wearing is still mandatory; those who don’t comply face fines of up to €150 (about $170).

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Drive-through vaccination

    Because the vaccination rate is faltering, the German government intends to focus once again on low-threshold vaccination incentives, like vaccination drive-ins and mobile vaccination teams. It also wants to push ahead as fast as possible with the third booster vaccination — to “winter-proof” Germany’s population, as Olaf Scholz, the presumed chancellor-elect, has said.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Open wide…

    Given the increasing number of breakthrough infections and the decline in vaccination protection after six months, it seems that this is sorely needed. The only other thing that will help is systematic testing. For just one month, from October 11 to November 11, people were required to pay for tests, but these are now free again — irrespective of vaccination status.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    My home is my office

    Anyone who doesn’t absolutely have to commute to work should therefore stay at home. The original working-from-home requirement ended in Germany in June — but now it’s back. With infection rates spiraling, reducing contacts has to take precedence. Wherever possible, workplaces have been relocated back to the home office — to the kitchen table, or the sofa.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Lebkuchen or lockdown?

    Christmas markets are starting to open in German towns, although many, like this one in Freiburg, have strict access rules and have limited visitor numbers. However, the state of Bavaria has responded to the extremely high infection rates by clamping down. Municipalities with a seven-day incidence of more than 1,000 must go into lockdown, and their Christmas markets must also remain closed.

  • Germany caught up in fourth COVID wave

    Tragic number

    A man in a cemetery in Bonn mourns his dead wife — one of the 100,000 people in Germany who have died of COVID-19. Over the past few weeks, the number of those dying of COVID and infected with the virus has risen daily. On October 1, it was 66. On November 18, the Robert Koch Institute recorded 201 such deaths.

    Author: Thomas Latschan

What is the pandemic situation in Germany?

Germany has seen a record spike in coronavirus cases — with scientists and health care experts criticizing the government for taking action too late.

Up to 6,000 people could be in intensive care units by Christmas, warned the head of the country’s intensive care association DIVI on Wednesday.

Just under 69% of Germany’s population are fully vaccinated — one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.

Virologists said much of the surge is due to vaccine resistance and skepticism in a large section of society.

While the number of deaths is much lower than it was at its peak last winter, the current number of infections at present is considerably higher — with 74,000 new cases logged on Thursday alone.

Concerns over the new omicron variant are also high, with Germany confirming several cases. Scientists are working to gather data on how transmissible it is and how effective vaccines are against it.

There are signs, however, that the curb could be flattening in Germany, as the seven-day incidence rate among 100,000 residents fell to 439.2 on Thursday — decreasing for the third day in a row.

rs/rc (dpa, Reuters)

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