Covid-19 For Members

EXPLAINED: Germany's latest proposals to fight fourth Covid wave

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 2 Dec, 2021 Updated Thu 2 Dec 2021 07:23 CEST
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As the situation in Germany's hospitals intensifies, political leaders are considering a new raft of measures. Here's what you need to know ahead of Thursday's meeting.

What is actually going on in Germany?

Covid cases have been rising and German hospitals are buckling under the pressure of new coronavirus patients - most of whom are unvaccinated according to doctors. Some intensive care units are full, while other hospitals have cancelled operations to divert staff and resources to ICUs. 

Politicians are wrestling over the best Covid plan to get through this difficult period. After an emergency meeting on Tuesday, another round of talks will take place on Thursday to decide on the measures needed to calm the fourth wave. 

But there are a few complications to keep in mind: firstly, Germany's incoming government is not quite in place yet (that's due to happen next week), so the outgoing government, headed by Angela Merkel (CDU), is still technically in power in a caretaker capacity. Merkel and soon-to-be Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) are attending Covid meetings together.

There are 16 state premiers who also want to have their say. Plus there's the issue of the legal basis for introducing any far-reaching new Covid measures after the 'pandemic state of emergency' was lifted on November 25th and replaced with an amended Infection Protection Act which caused political friction.

Adding to the mix is a ruling by the federal constitutional court released this week which found that the emergency brake rules - which included curfews and contact bans - were lawful. This ruling widens the scope for decisions on Covid restrictions in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Will Germany bring in Covid ’emergency brake’ restrictions?

What are political leaders hoping for?

The general feeling among most state and federal leaders is that Covid measures need to become tougher in order to deal with the dramatic situation. 

Here's a look at the ideas being put forward by Scholz. 

Vaccine mandates

After the talks on Tuesday, Scholz said he wanted to see Germany follow in the footsteps of neighbouring Austria by introducing compulsory vaccination by March next year.

"We have not succeeded in getting enough people vaccinated," said Scholz after the meeting. "Many people have been vaccinated, but because it’s not enough we are in the position we’re in now. 

"Due to the conditions we can and must make a decision. I’m in favour of it. I’m also in favour of it being based on a vote in the Bundestag where every member will decide according to their own conscience."

Compulsory vaccination for employees in certain professions - like care facilities for the elderly and in hospitals - is also being looked at as a first step after state leaders called for it last month

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany finalises new Covid restrictions for winter

Booster shots at the dentist

In order to increase the vaccination tempo and to get 30 million shots into people's arms by Christmas, vaccinations should be carried out by pharmacists, dentists - and even vets, Scholz proposed.

A Bundeswehr officer at a vaccination centre in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marijan Murat

Vaccination only recognised for six months

Immunity among the population could also be increased by making it compulsory to get a booster shot six months after the last dose, according to Scholz. That would mean people would lose their vaccination status if they didn't get a top-up jab.

Unvaccinated barred from almost all public life

There are calls from Scholz for a nationwide 2G rule In the retail sector. That means access to non-essential shops would only be for people who are vaccinated (geimpft) or for those who have recovered from Covid (genesen). Some states have already brought in this regulation.

Businesses are also encouraged to have 2G-plus rules - where vaccinated or recovered people also have to show a negative Covid test to gain entry into a venue or event. 

Closures and restrictions

Large events such as football matches would be significantly restricted under the plans, with 2G or 2G-plus rules. Bavarian premier Markus Söder said all spectators should be temporarily banned from matches. He said it was difficult to justify busy stadiums when Christmas markets have been cancelled. 

And the proposals say that venues like clubs and bars - and similar - would have to close in areas with high Covid numbers or hospitalisations.

"From the federal government's point of view, this is already legally possible," says the proposal. "It will undoubtedly be clarified in the reform of the Infection Protection Act. However, the states should already use this option across the board where necessary."

The legal possibility of closing restaurants in areas with difficult infection dynamics is also being looked at.

However, according to the latest draft, the aim is to keep access to cultural and leisure facilities - such as cinemas, theatres and restaurants - open but only to vaccinated and recovered people (2G). An up-to-date test could be required (2G-plus rule).

READ ALSO: Germany to thrash out tougher Covid measures on Thursday

Contact restrictions for unvaccinated people

Nationwide strict contact restrictions are being proposed for the unvaccinated. If you are eligible but have chosen to not get vaccinated, private gatherings would be limited to your own household and a maximum of two people from another household.

Lockdown 'clause'

Furthermore, according to German regional newspaper the Tagesspiegel, a planned amendment to Germany's infection protection laws will include a permanent 'state lockdown clause' to allow for regional lockdowns, including widespread closures and curfews for the unvaccinated.

This item is needed because the current lockdowns in Saxony and Bavaria, which were brought in before the legal situation changed on November 25th are only allowed to stay in place until December 15th. 

Some states say they are struggling to introduce curbs under the new legal framework. Berlin authorities, for instance, said Tuesday they wanted to close clubs, bars and restaurants but said the law needs to be adapted at the federal level.

Masks in schools

Mandatory masks will be reintroduced in schools for all grades nationwide.

Expert committee

Scholz wants to set up a scientific expert committee in the Federal Chancellery which will meet once a week and make joint proposals.

A Covid crisis team led by a military general has already been set up. Its primary task will be coordinating and speeding up the vaccine rollout, but it will also be charged with monitoring and responding to the ongoing Covid situation.

What else is on the table?

There are also calls for the Christmas holidays to be brought forward in badly hit areas.

All of these points - and others - will be discussed and decided on in a meeting between Scholz, Merkel and state leaders. 

"The details of these regulations are to be worked out by Thursday in order to then come to joint decisions," government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced.

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The Local 2021/12/02 07:23

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