Germany passes Covid-19 vaccine requirement for health workers

Germany on Friday passed legislation requiring healthcare workers to get inoculated against Covid-19, a first step toward possible mandatory jabs for all adults.

A doctor at a vaccination clinic
A healthcare worker prepares a dose of vaccine at a vaccination centre in Maiz, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

A large majority of Bundestag MPs voted for the measure requiring staff at hospitals, doctors’ offices and care homes to be fully vaccinated.

The Bundesrat or upper house passed the bill later Friday following similar moves by France, Italy, Britain and Greece.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who took office this week with the new government under Olaf Scholz, asked deputies from across the political spectrum to support the measure to protect vulnerable groups.

“The pandemic is a mission for us all – this isn’t a moment for party politics,” he told the chamber before the vote.

He said he hoped Germany could break a vicious fourth wave of the outbreak by the end of the month so that people could visit their families over the holidays.

“That’s what we’re fighting for,” he said, stressing the need to slow the spread of the Delta virus variant and stop the Omicron strain from gaining ground.

Under the new plans, people who work in clinics, surgeries and care homes will have to present proof of full vaccination – or a doctor’s note explaining why they can’t get vaccinated – by March 15th next year.

From March 16th, anyone wanting to work in medicine or care in Germany will need to provide proof of vaccination before starting their jobs.

Speaking to Spiegel on Friday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said people who disobeyed the law would be punished with fines rather than prison sentences.

“Nobody will have to go to prison,” he told reporters, adding that the fines would be set high enough to be “effective”.

He also spoke out in favour of extending the vaccine mandate to include teachers and people who work in nurseries. 

READ ALSO: German health workers must be fully vaccinated by March 15th 2022

Scholz, who took power on Wednesday, has come out strongly in favour of mandatory vaccinations after the voluntary campaign fell short with just under 70 percent of the population fully inoculated. Around 21 percent have received a booster shot.

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

Majority supports mandate

Angela Merkel’s previous government had always ruled out mandatory vaccination, but calls for action have grown louder in Germany as infection rates hit record highs and hospitals buckle under the strain.

Around 89 percent of German care home staff and 90 percent of medical workers are fully vaccinated, according to an official estimate from October, but with wide variation among regions.

“Mandatory vaccination is a really difficult issue,” Markus Heim, a senior doctor in the intensive care unit at Munich’s Rechts der Isar hospital, told AFP.

“Everyone who works in the medical sector wants more people to be inoculated and if that can be achieved by requiring it then a lot of people working here would support it.”

Mandatory jabs are now backed by politicians from across the spectrum and Scholz aims to have a policy in force by February or March to head off a possible fifth wave of infections.

A clear majority of Germans also supports the move, with 68 percent telling public broadcaster ZDF in a poll published Friday that they support a general requirement.

The country recorded 61,288 new infections on Friday and 484 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency. Nearly 105,000 people have died with coronavirus.

Beyond the new vaccine mandate, the amendments to the Infection Protection Act are intended to equip states with the powers they need to fight the current Covid wave. 


These include new clauses that will allow states to close restaurants, bars and clubs and ban large gatherings and events when Covid incidences are particularly high.

“We’re providing the means to break the Delta wave regionally and nationally, and we’re doing all we can to prevent a powerful Omicron variant,” Lauterbach told parliamentarians ahead of the vote. 

To hit government vaccine targets, the government will also permit vets, dentists and pharmacists to administer Covid jabs, as long as they recieve medical training beforehand.

In addition, people on ‘Kurzarbeit’ will in future recieve more generous payouts under government plans to top up the wages of employees who have had their working hours reduced during the pandemic. 

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”