The debate over privileges for people who have received a Covid-19 vaccine has been heating up in Germany in recent weeks.
But the German Ethics Council, which advises the government on scientific and moral issues, came out in opposition to lifting restrictions for those who have been inoculated.
At a meeting in Berlin, council head Alena Buyx advised against “individual relaxation of the rules”, pointing to a lack of evidence on whether those who have received jabs are still able to spread the virus.
“Vaccinated people should still be expected to follow rules such as wearing a mask or keeping their distance,” she said.
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Asked whether anyone should be using the term “privileges” for vaccinated people, Buyx said: “I would be happy if people stopped using the term.”
The word is imprecise, she added, and has caused unnecessary frustration within the public debate.
The Council stressed, however, that a distinction needed be made between government measures and company requirements.
Private providers are free to determine their own rules, they said, as long as they’re in line with local regulations.
For example, if Germany allows concert halls to reopen, their organisers could then decide whether or not they wanted to allow only vaccinated people to enter, said Buyx.
“But this would not result in everyone who enters the concert hall requiring a vaccination,” Buyx said, pointing out that it would be possible to offer coronavirus tests as an alternative.
The Council also rejected early access to vaccines for professional athletes participating in international competitions.
A mixed debate
In January, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) became the first German minister to call for special privileges for vaccinated people. He argued that, while it was unclear whether they could infect others, they would “no longer take a respirator away from anyone else”.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, however, has argued that giving special privileges to those who have received a vaccine could lead to a large split within society.
In an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Tuesday evening, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) did not explicitly speak in favour of privileges for those vaccinated, but said that those who did not want to receive a vaccine once it is is widely available in Germany could possibly not be allowed to “do specific things” within society.
As of February 4th, a total of 2,091,689 people in Germany (or about 2.5 percent of the population) had received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, according to the government’s ‘Vaccination Dashboard’, and 756,333 had already received a second dose.
Two doses are considered necessary to be fully vaccinated.