Germany divided over Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated

Pressure is growing on the unvaccinated in Germany as states consider bringing in so-called 2G rules. Could the restrictions convince people to get vaccinated? And will 2G become the norm?

Germany divided over Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated
A sign shows 2G rules for entry to the Theater am Aegi in Hanover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

As the fourth wave gathered pace in Germany, Saxony became the first state to introduce mandatory 2G rules – effectively excluding people who are eligible for vaccination but choose not to get it – from many areas of public life. 

Since Monday, only the fully vaccinated, and people who’ve recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months, are allowed to dine indoor in restaurants, and visit bars or clubs.

There is no longer the option for unvaccinated people to show a negative Covid test to enter many indoor public spaces.

Not everyone is happy about this – including some businesses who don’t want to turn away customers. But Saxony will not be alone. Millions of people in Germany will soon have to be prepared to present their vaccination certificates much more in everyday life – or face being shown the door.

2G regulations are also on the agenda in other federal states such as Berlin, Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. In some hard-hit districts in these areas, 2G is already in force. 

So far, some German states have allowed individual businesses to choose 2G as an option rather than a mandatory rule. 


Why is Germany panicking?

Germany’s Covid rate reached a new high on Tuesday with 213.7 infections per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, 21,832 Covid infections were logged within 24 hours, as well as 169 Covid-related deaths. 

Hospitalisations are still well below previous peaks, with just under 4 Covid-19 patients per 100,000 residents in intensive care units. But doctors say hospitals are filling up in badly affected areas.

On Monday, the incoming German government put together a draft plan on Covid restrictions which included the possibility to exclude unvaccinated people from some indoor events, reintroducing free Covid tests, stricter prevention measures in the workplace (3G rules), and the option of requiring PCR tests instead of rapid tests.

A Covid-19 test centre in Hanover, Lower Saxony.
A Covid-19 test centre in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

But some people say the proposals don’t go far enough. 

The German Association of Cities, for instance, said the paper was a missed opportunity to introduce the 2G rule in the leisure sector nationwide.

“Without a vaccination, going to the fitness centre, club or cinema should be taboo,” chairman Helmut Dedy told the newspapers of the Funke-Mediengruppe on Tuesday.

He also said Germany needed to hold crisis talks.

“Instead of talking for days about the option of a federal-state roundtable, perhaps we should have one and jointly agree on a strategy for the near future,” he said.

Saxony’s state premier Michael Kretschmer (CDU), who has also called for emergency Covid talks, defended the tough 2G restrictions on the unvaccinated in the eastern state, saying they are an ’emergency brake’ to avert the worst outcome – a lockdown on shops and the hospitality industry.

Saxony has the lowest vaccination rate in Germany, and the highest number of Covid-19 cases. 

But experts and politicians are divided on whether – and how – 2G works. Some believe the rule could even be harmful.

“From a medical point of view, the 2G option is basically understandable,” the head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Andreas Gassen, told DPA. But it is difficult to implement, he said. “Moreover, a mandatory introduction raises, above all, constitutional and socio-political questions that cannot be answered by medical professionals.”

Alternative for Germany (AfD) leader Tino Chrupalla told Phoenix radio that the move to 2G was “catastrophic” and will lead to social division.

Some experts have other doubts. 2G gives a “false sense of security”, virologist Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit said at the weekend, adding that vaccinated people can become infected and pass on the virus. Real safety is only provided by tests on everyone, whether vaccinated, unvaccinated or recovered, said Schmidt-Chanasit, calling this 1G.

READ ALSO: National 2G rules would be a mistake, top German virologists warn

Can 2G encourage vaccinations?

Germany’s vaccination rate is currently hovering at around 67 percent – behind most other European countries. 

Health experts have raised concerns that many unvaccinated people will get Covid during the winter. 

“My biggest concern is that there are still too many unvaccinated people in Germany,” Dr Günther Schönrich, deputy director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité Berlin, told DW on Tuesday. 

“About 67 percent of the population is fully vaccinated and that is really not enough. In the months to come we will see many of those who are not vaccinated in the clinics.

“They will be admitted to the clinic and some will have to be treated in the ICU. We have to somehow reach the unvaccinated and convince them they have to be vaccinated for their own safety and to protect others.”

He believes that without more people getting vaccinated, the country “won’t be able to break the fourth wave”.

German politicians and scientists have been discussing for months ways to convince vaccine-hesitant people, with no real success. 

Now initial reports show that the 2G debate in Germany may be convincing some people to get their jabs. Vaccination numbers are beginning to go up – even in Saxony, reported DPA.

Demand is also rising in Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Lower Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. In the northern state, the Greifswald vaccination centre said it has been “completely overrun for days”.

The rising number of Covid cases everywhere is certainly contributing to this, but 2G is also increasing the pressure. “In individual feedback, the increasing use of 2G is cited as a reason for the vaccination decision,” reported the spokesperson of Nordwestmecklenburg, Christoph Wohlleben.

Member comments

  1. I personally do not wish to be around an unvaccinated person (without known health issues who can be vaccinated).

    I have a much higher chance of getting a potentially severe dose of Covid from them vs from a vaccinated person.

    Why should vaccinated people be limited in every day life because of the so-called “rights” of people choosing to only focus on themselves?

    1. So you want to force other people to have a potentially dangerous medical procedure to protect you, and somehow you think it’s they who are selfish??

      You are the selfish one. You don’t get to strip people of their rights just because you are terrified of a virus with a 99.8% survival rate (without vaccine). If you are vaccinated and you believe they work, then why do you care if others are vaccinated? You take care of your medical care and others should be responsible for their own.

      If you don’t believe that people have “so-called rights” over what goes into their own body, precisely what rights are you not prepared to strip from a person? Where is the limiting principle?

      I think you need to stop and think about where this is all going. Germany has been down this road before: discriminating against another section of the population made unpopular by media and government propaganda.

      Stop this madness and start thinking rationally. You do not have a higher chance of being infected by the unvaccinated. Both vaxed and unvaxed carry equal viral loads and are, therefore, equally infectious. However, the vaccinated may display lesser symptoms and so may not be aware they are infectious; particularly since they are tested much less. The entire basis for vaccine passports and forced/coerced vaccinations is built on the falsehood that it protects others: It does NOT. Even if you ignore the individual rights of others, these policies still make no sense.

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Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany.