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VACCINATIONS

Germany mulls easing virus curbs for vaccinated people

Germany plans to ease some of the current coronavirus restrictions for people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a draft text drawn up by the government and seen by AFP at the weekend.

Germany mulls easing virus curbs for vaccinated people
Photo: Hauke-Christian Dittrich / POOL / AFP

The proposal is to be discussed at a meeting on Monday by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and the powerful regional state premiers.

According to the draft text, it was a question not of awarding people with proven immunity any special privileges, but of “lifting curbs on their basic rights that are no longer justified”.

The debate comes as Germany is struggling to tame a third wave of coronavirus infections, and just 22 percent of Germans have had their first of two Covid-19 jabs.

Under the proposed relaxations, people who are fully vaccinated would no longer have to show a recent negative coronavirus test to enter certain shops, get a haircut or attend certain events.

They would also be exempt from quarantining after returning from abroad, unless they were coming from a country classed as a high-risk virus variant area such as India.

Rules on social distancing and mask-wearing would still apply to everyone. German politicians from across the political spectrum have come out in favour of giving vaccinated people more freedoms.

The German Ethics Council, which helped shape the country’s vaccine priority groups, said it was becoming harder to justify the restrictions in the face of growing evidence that those vaccinated no longer play a significant role in spreading the virus.

Giving the same treatment to people who test negative, are vaccinated or even those who can show they have recovered from Covid and allow them “to access restaurants or shops is ethically unproblematic”, council chair Alena Buyx told the Tagesspiegel daily on Sunday.

‘Emergency brake’

New nationwide legislation went into force on Saturday that imposes tougher restrictions in regions with more than 100 new infections per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period for three consecutive days, which currently includes huge swathes of Germany.

Merkel had pushed hard for the “emergency brake” rules to become legally binding after many regional leaders refused to take unpopular measures, despite rapidly rising case numbers.

READ ALSO: Germany’s new ’emergency brake’ Covid restrictions come into force Saturday

The new law includes a controversial 10pm-5am curfew and stricter rules for social gatherings and store openings. If the incidence rate climbs above 165, schools must revert to online lessons.

The legislation also explicitly allows for “exceptions to be granted to those considered immune”, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht told the Handelsblatt business daily on Saturday.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, who is running to succeed Merkel in September’s general elections, said Germany should go even further and draw up plans for a phased reopening of the country as the vaccination pace picks up speed.

“By the end of May, we should be able to make reliable predictions. I want us, as a government, to commit to clear and brave steps towards reopening,” he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine in Germany if I’m not on a priority list?

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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