German political leaders refuse to rule out compulsory Covid vaccination

In view of Germany’s dramatic Covid situation, the debate about a general vaccination obligation is gaining momentum, with a growing number of political leaders saying they would not rule it out.  

A medical worker holds up a dose of the Moderna vaccine
A medical worker holds up a dose of the Moderna vaccine. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Bodo Schackow

On Thursday, the heads of the 16 federal states agreed that mandatory vaccinations for health workers should be carried out “on a facility-by-facility basis” and urged the federal government to implement this as soon as possible. But discussions for mandatory vaccines for the general population are also intensifying.

Holding a press conference about the availability of mRNA vaccines on Monday morning, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility of introducing mandatory vaccination in Germany in the future. 

“That is not a decision we can make today,” he told reporters. 

On Sunday evening, SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach had also raised the possibility of compulsory vaccinations in a talk show on the TV station Bild. 

“We must move towards vaccination obligation,” he argued. “Without compulsory vaccinations, we obviously won’t achieve the vaccination rate we need to get to.” 

On Monday morning the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced a  seven-day incidence of 386.5, reaching a new high for the 15th day in a row. 30,643 new infections within 24 hours were also reported, although fewer case numbers are usually reported over the weekend.

READ ALSO: German states call for mandatory Covid vaccinations for health workers

Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek also recently said that he would not rule out a general vaccination requirement.

“I was always actually an opponent of compulsory vaccination,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio. However, he now believes “that we need to talk about this issue relatively quickly.” “Personally, I am now actually in favour of this general vaccination obligation as a last resort,” he said. Bavaria is currently one of the worst-hit federal states in Germany: on Monday the Robert Koch Institut reported an incidence of 640 in the region.

The president of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, expressed restraint in the debate about compulsory vaccination, but said that it could be seen as “as a last resort” on ZDF television on Sunday. But he repeated his calls for people to get vaccinated voluntarily. “We must ensure that we get as many people as possible to vaccinate, and boost those who have complete basic immunisation,” he said. 

READ ALSO: Germany to tighten restrictions on unvaccinated

As of November 21st,  68 percent (56.5 milllion people) of the overall population were fully vaccinated, and at least 70.5 percent had received at least one dose. But in some states the vaccination rate is considerably lower – in Sachsen, the rate of vaccinated people is only at 59.8 percent.

There are already strong objections from some politicians to the idea of a mandatory vaccination, however. The deputy leader of the FDP parliamentary group, Michael Theurer, told the Bild programme: “We think it’s unconstitutional.” 

The deputy chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Thorsten Frei, also expressed great skepticism.  He told Die Welt: “A general vaccination requirement is likely to be disproportionate and thus unconstitutional under the current framework conditions because of the serious interference in the right to physical integrity.”

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now