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.
- Berlin plans to ban the unvaccinated from restaurants, bars and culture
- German states order tougher Covid rules to fight fourth wave
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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.
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.
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.