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COVID-19 RULES

German leaders plan crackdown on unvaccinated to tackle Covid surge

German leaders including Chancellor Angela Merkel and her designated successor Olaf Scholz are expected to approve a de-facto "lockdown for the unvaccinated" on Thursday to combat surging Covid cases.

People walk at a Christmas market in Schwerin, northern Germany.
People walk at a Christmas market in Schwerin, northern Germany. Many Christmas markets have closed or have strict rules for entry in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

Merkel, Scholz and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states tightened Covid restrictions just two weeks ago, but are in talks again to impose even tougher measures amid a raging fourth wave of the virus.

According to a draft agreement, the plans include a blanket ban on entering bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and other leisure facilities for anyone who has not been vaccinated or recovered from Covid – a system known as 2G in Germany.

The unvaccinated would also be banned from Christmas markets and non-essential shops, as well as be hit by contact restrictions limiting the number of people they can socialise with.

The agreement also calls for new restrictions on large gatherings, which would affect events such as Bundesliga football matches, and the closure of nightclubs in areas with a weekly incidence rate above 350 infections per 100,000 people.

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

Health Minister Jens Spahn, in a caretaker role ahead of the planned swearing in of a new government next week, told the ZDF broadcaster that Germany needed “a lockdown, so to speak, for the unvaccinated”.

‘Never been as threatening’

Infections have smashed German records in recent weeks and hospitals are sounding the alarm, with many over capacity and forced to dispatch patients elsewhere in the country for treatment.

Though Germany’s seven-day incidence rate has fallen slightly this week, it still stood at 439.2 on Thursday, with 73,209 new cases recorded in the past 24 hours.

“From the point of view of intensive and emergency medicine, the pandemic situation has never been as threatening and serious as it is today,” the DIVI intensive care association warned on Wednesday, calling for a drastic tightening of restrictions.

Several hard-hit German regions have already cancelled Christmas markets and barred the unvaccinated from public spaces like gyms and leisure facilities to slow the pandemic spread.

But critics say the patchwork of rules is confusing, and Thursday’s emergency talks are aimed at coming up with nationwide rules.

The draft agreement also expresses support for compulsory vaccination in Germany, suggesting February as a possible start date. Scholz said earlier this week that he wants parliament to vote on the matter before the end of the year.

“Too many people have not got vaccinated,” Scholz told Bild television. Making jabs compulsory is justified “to protect us all”, he said.

‘Dramatic situation’

Many experts have partly blamed Germany’s fourth wave on its relatively low vaccination rate of around 68 percent, compared to fellow EU countries such as Spain at 79 percent and Portugal at 86 percent.

Merkel’s outgoing government had always ruled out mandatory vaccination, but the measure is now backed by politicians from across the spectrum.

Merkel’s spokeswoman on Wednesday said Germany was “in a dramatic situation in the pandemic where new possibilities have to be thought about”.

Germany already announced plans earlier this month to require health workers and soldiers to get inoculated against Covid-19.

In Berlin on Wednesday, a woman who gave her name as Clara said she disagreed with compulsory jabs in principle but also felt “we are already so deep in the pandemic that there is no way around it.

Fellow passer-by Alicia Münch said it “would have been a good idea from the beginning” and she was in favour of the move, “especially in certain professions, but also in general”.

Expanding that to the general public would see the country follow the example of neighbouring Austria, which is planning mandatory vaccinations from February.

European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday it was time for the bloc to “think about mandatory vaccination” against Covid, though she also stressed it was up to individual states to make the decision.

“My personal position is… I think it is understandable and appropriate to lead this discussion now,” she said.

Thursday’s meeting comes two days after the country’s constitutional court ruled that sweeping measures imposed earlier in the pandemic – including curfews, school closures and contact restrictions – were lawful.

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

By Femke COLBORNE

Member comments

    1. I don’t see that mentioned anywhere. Actually the opposite, with the goal being to keep cinemas, restaurants, and theater open with the various (and confusing) 2G+ rules.

        1. Do you mean that outgoing loser Spahn, or someone else? Because anything Spahn says means less than nothing today. Berlin is doing fine, the only major city doing better is Hamburg. I really do not see vaccinated being kept out of restaurants, cinemas, etc. But we will know by the end of the day, wont we.

          1. No, the Berlin health minister. Apparently the Berlin Senate have agreed to close all clubs, bars, restaurants and cultural and leisure facilities to everyone. They just need the legal powers to do so (lockdown clause) hich they will hammer out today.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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