Not even one in 10 people in Germany has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 so far. Nevertheless, the government is already thinking about if – and how – people who’ve received their jabs should receive ‘special privileges’, or at least be able to return to the activities they could easily do before the pandemic.
Under the proposed relaxations, first announced at the weekend, 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.
The federal-state discussions on this topic, and Germany’s overall vaccine campaign, are set to take place Monday at 3pm.
What will happen to those who have been vaccinated?
According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), vaccinated people are even less likely to spread a Covid-19 infection than those who have received a negative test, due to the lack of reliability with some tests.
It should therefore be “legally required that vaccinated people have the same rights as tested people,” CDU chancellor candidate Armin Laschet told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday.
Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer told the Funke media group: “It is self-evident and imperative that people who cannot be carriers of the virus as a result of their vaccination, or only with a very low probability, are not restricted.”
Kretschmer also called for vaccinations carried out abroad to be recognized in Germany – even if the vaccine in question has not yet been approved in the EU.
The business-friendly liberal Free Democrats (FDP) also welcomed the plans.
“Now that we know that vaccinated people cannot transmit the virus, their basic rights must no longer be restricted,” FDP Secretary General Volker Wissing told the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.
“The state must have a reason vis-à-vis each individual why it restricts freedoms.”
Vaccinated nursing home residents should be allowed to eat together and have visitors again, said Katrin Göring-Eckardt, chairwoman of the Green Party in the Bundestag, to the Rheinische Post.
What do the experts advise?
When fully vaccinated people meet, contact restrictions can be relaxed, according to the EU health agency (ECDC).
However, in some situations, distance and mask rules should be maintained regardless of the vaccination status of those involved, such as in public spaces, large gatherings and when travelling.
For meetings between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, the experts further recommend maintaining distance and masks. However, research results, which are still limited, indicate that if vaccinated people catch an infection despite being vaccinated, they are less likely to pass on the virus.
Why is there talk about exemptions for vaccinated people now?
The majority of the German population has not yet been vaccinated, but the government knows how high the legal hurdles are for loosening restrictions.
More than two dozen lawsuits have already been filed at Germany’s constitutional court in Karlsruhe against various aspects of the nationwide “emergency brake”, which went into effect on Saturday and put strict measures, such as night time curfews and school closures, into place for regions with high Covid incidences.
Will swimming pools and restaurants open for the vaccinated and recovered?
There are no plans to do so yet. Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday also said he didn’t think these plans would happen.
But it cannot be ruled out that it will happen – and before the pandemic is completely over. It is also conceivable that people who do not want to be vaccinated will also be allowed to enter these places, but with a negative test.
When will the exemptions for vaccinated people apply?
The decision is unlikely to be made quickly.
But politically, the government is in a bind. The sooner there is relief for this group, the sooner some people who have shown no interest in vaccination so far may make an effort to get vaccinated. This brings Germany closer to the goal of so-called herd immunity.
If only a minority of the population is exempt from tough restrictions, however, there is the threat of even more criticism of the “emergency brake” and what many people in Germany still see as an insufficient pace of vaccination.
By the end of the week, about seven percent of the population in this country had been fully vaccinated. Just under 23 percent have received at least one dose.
Will the pace of vaccination pick up?
Last week, the German Health Minister Spahn also called for every adult to be eligible for a vaccine by June, but warned that this does not mean jabs will be automatically available to everyone.
Four German states also released the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine, for which some have a surplus, to anyone who had a consultation with a doctor.
At the weekend CSU leader Markus Söder suggested vaccinating significantly more within workplaces and families.
The Bavarian state premier furthermore proposed to completely release all vaccines as early as May and also to increasingly vaccinate schoolchildren over the age of 16.
“We need company vaccinations, we need family vaccinations,” said the Bavarian premier on Sunday in the ARD program Report from Berlin, referring to the situations in which he said the infection was prone to spread the quickest.