SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

Pressure mounts on German politicians to implement ‘vaccinated only’ rule

In the battle against the fourth wave, German president of the World Medical Association has spoken out in favour of tough restrictions on the unvaccinated, stepping up the pressure on the government to act.

Pressure mounts on German politicians to implement 'vaccinated only' rule
Frank Ulrich Montgomery, president of the World Medical Association and former head of the Federal Doctors' Association, wants Germany to introduce a national '2G' rule. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Guido Kirchner

Speaking to the Funke Media Group on Thursday, health expert Frank Ulrich Montgomery said it would not be enough to try and increase jab rates with mobile vaccination teams. 

“To break the fourth wave before it becomes dramatic, we should now introduce a ‘2G’ rule nationwide wherever possible,” Montgomery told the Funke Media Group on Thursday.

The so-called 2G rule specifies that only vaccinated (geimpft) and recently recovered (genesen) people are able to access certain events, businesses and services. It is effectively a means of shutting out unvaccinated people from certain parts of public life to limit the social contact of people without Covid immunity. 

In areas where it would be impossible to exclude the unvaccinated with a 2G rule, such as public transport, a ‘3G’ rule would then have to apply, Montgomery said.

“Unvaccinated people would then have to show an up-to-date PCR test. A simple rapid test should no longer be sufficient,” he added.

According to government data released on Thursday, 61.7 percent of the German population were fully vaccinated, while 66.2 percent had been given at least one dose.

But experts say the country should be aiming for at least an 85 percent vaccination target for people aged 18-59, and a 90 percent threshold for people over-60 to combat the highly infectious Delta variant.

To make matters worse, daily vaccinations have been dropping since the middle of June.

In his interview with the Funke Media Group, Montgomery said a nationwide 2G rule would be the incentive people needed to get vaccinated.

Since August 23rd, a ‘3G’ rule has applied nationwide to certain indoor areas such as gyms and restaurants, as well as public events. 

In yet another attempt to increase vaccination rates, the German government is also planning to scrap its free rapid tests from October 11th. Though the price of these tests hasn’t yet been determined, it could mean that people who haven’t been jabbed will have to shell out around €20 – or more – to visit an indoor seating area at a restaurant , an event or go to the cinema this autumn. 

READ ALSO:

This is intended to make life difficult for the unvaccinated – but the government has so far stopped short of introducing the highly controversial 2G rule.

When Hamburg went down the route of introducing optional 2G for restaurants and bars at the end of August, critics accused the government of introducing forced vaccination via the backdoor. 

However, influential politicians like Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) believe that the move should be up for discussion – and it has not been ruled out as an emergency measure in autumn. 

‘We need creativity’

In the view of the German government and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), without significantly more vaccinations, there is a risk of a severe course of the fourth Covid wave over the coming months.

In light of stagnating vaccination rates, the government is planning to launch a nationwide campaign next Monday to convince some of the fence-sitters.

Together with the states,  the Health Ministry wants easy-to-access offers to be made in as many places as possible – for example, in sports clubs, at the volunteer fire brigade, in pharmacies or multi-generation houses – with the motto: Hier wird geimpft or ‘vaccinate here’. Vaccination offers will be placed online at www.hierwirdgeimpft.de.

READ ALSO: Germany considers Covid vaccination campaign relaunch to convince the undecided

However, the government’s approach to vaccinating the populace is not without its critics. 


Anton Hofreiter, head of the Greens Party Bundestag fraction, has accused the government of not going far enough to convince people to get their jabs. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Schröder

Speaking to the regional Heilbronner Stimme on Thursday, the leader of the Green Party in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter, accused the federal government of failing to reach people with its inoculation campaign.

“We have to be even more active in approaching people, we need creativity and better information offers to promote vaccinations,” Hofreiter said. “You can’t stop fighting the pandemic just because you’re in election campaign mode.”

“We could largely have our normal lives back thanks to vaccines. But now a fourth wave is looming because the federal government has driven the vaccination campaign up the wall,” he added.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

Bavaria's state premier Markus Söder (CSU) has announced plans for a "prompt" end to mandatory masks on buses and trains.

Bavaria signals end to compulsory masks on public transport

If infection levels and hospitalisations remain low, the end of the mask-wearing rule could come as soon as December or January.

“We are convinced that the mask requirement in public transport could also be phased out either in mid-December or early next year, if the numbers remain reasonably stable and there are no new mutations,” Söder explained on Monday, following a meeting with the CSU executive committee. 

A decision on when to end the measure would be made “promptly”, he added.

The CSU politician had said last week that the sinking infection rates meant that compulsory masks were no longer appropriate and that the mandate could be changed to a recommendation. 

No set date for change

The latest version of Bavaria’s Infection Protection Act – which lays out an obligation to wear masks on public transport as one of the few remaining Covid rules – is currently due to expire on December 9th.

State ministers could decide whether to let obligatory masks on buses and trains lapse on this date as early as next week, or they could decide to initially extend the legislation and set an alternative date for ending the rule.

Regardless of their decision, FFP2 masks will continue to be mandatory on long-distance public transport until at least April next year, when the nationwide Infection Protection Act is due to expire.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

Speaking to Süddeutsche Zeitung on Monday after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, Florian Herrmann (CSU), head of the State Chancellery, confirmed that Covid-19 had been discussed in passing.

However, no decisions or discussions were made on how to proceed after the expiry of the regulation, he said.

According to Herrmann, the fact that Covid was no longer the “dominant topic” in the cabinet under “enormous tension” shows “that we are returning to normality” in a gradual transition from pandemic to endemic. 

As of Wednesday, the 7-day incidence of Covid infections per 100,000 people stood at 108 in Bavaria, down from 111 the previous day. However, experts have cast doubt on how meaningful the incidence is in light of the fact that fewer people are taking tests.

Nevertheless, the 133 hospital beds occupied by Covid patients in the Free State falls well below the 600 threshold for a ‘red alert’. With Omicron causing less severe courses of illness than previous variants, politicians have increasingly focussed on hospitalisation statistics to gauge the severity of the situation.

‘A risk-benefit trade-off’

Bavaria is the second federal state to announce plans to relax its mask-wearing rules in recent weeks.

On November 14th, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein announced that it would be ending obligatory FFP2 masks on public transport and urged other states to do the same. From January 2023, masks on public transport will only be recommended rather than mandated for passengers on local buses and trains. 

However, the Federal Ministry of Health has urged states not to loosen their rules too quickly.

Given that infection rates are likely to spike again in winter, “there’s no basis for loosening restrictions”, said Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD).

Physicians are also split on whether an end to masks on public transport is appropriate.

READ ALSO: Will Germany get rid of masks on public transport?

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks at the German Hospital Day in Düsseldorf on November 14th. Lauterbach is against the lifting of the mask-wearing rule. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Roberto Pfeil

Christoph Spinner, a virologist at the University Hospital in Munich, told Süddeutsche Zeitung he believed it was time to put the decision on mask-wearing back into the hands of individuals.

“Why not? The incidences are low, the danger of Covid-19 has dropped significantly and mortality has also decreased,” he said. 

But the Bavarian General Practitioners’ Association spoke out against the move, arguing that – unlike a trip to a restaurant or cinema – people often have no choice but to travel on public transport.

“If the obligation to wear a mask in public transport is maintained, this will help to protect against a Covid infection on the way to work by bus or train – especially in view of the discontinuation of the obligation to isolate in the event of a Covid infection,” they explained.

Bavaria is one of four states to have recently ended mandatory isolation for people who test positive for Covid. Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein both scrapped their isolation mandate last week, while Hesse removed its obligation on Tuesday. 

READ ALSO: Four German states call for end to mandatory Covid isolation

SHOW COMMENTS