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Germany pushes back 80 percent vaccination target

Amid stalling vaccination rates over the holiday period, Germany has extended its deadline to the end of January for when 80 percent of its population should have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine .

The entrance of the vaccination centre at the former 'International Congress Center' (ICC) in Berlin
The entrance of the vaccination centre at the former 'International Congress Center' (ICC) in Berlin on December 20th, 2021. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

A government spokesperson confirmed the extension to ARD-Hauptstadtstudio TV on Sunday. The deadline was originally set for January 7th. 

Currently, 61.4 million people in Germany ,or 73.8 percent of the population, have had at least one jab against Covid-19. To achieve the government’s 80 percent target, around five million more people need to receive their first dose.

Vaccination centres and doctors’ surgeries are closed on public holidays in many cities across Germany, so although there are special vaccination campaigns over Christmas and New Year, the rate at which people are getting jabbed has slowed considerably.

According to the Robert Koch Institute, around 67,000 Covid-19 vaccinations, including 51,000 boosters, were carried out on Christmas Eve. Two days earlier, on Wednesday, the figures were significantly higher: 710,000 vaccinations, including 561,000 booster jabs.

To increase uptake, politicians have been discussing making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory in the wider population. The issue is on the table for discussion in parliament when it returns in the new year.

In a recommendation published on Wednesday, the German Ethics Council came out in favour of extending the recently adopted compulsory vaccination for staff in healthcare institutions to “significant sections of the population”.

SPD parliamentary group deputy chair Dirk Wiese told Bild am Sonntag that “an initial debate” on this would take place in the Bundestag at the start of January, explaining that the issue was not a simple one legally, with matters, such as the timeline for when someone loses their vaccination status legally and requires a booster, to be resolved.

The question of how vaccination status would be monitored and fines also remain unresolved, although German politicians have previously stated that under possible vaccine mandates, people would be fined if they refused them and never forced to take a vaccine.

And CSU head Markus Söder told Welt am Sonntag he was “convinced” that making vaccination compulsory would overcome the current divide in society rather than deepen it.

“Many people would realise that it’s not so bad to get vaccinated – and that it actually protects you and gives you freedom,” the Bavarian Minister-President said.

READ ALSO: Q&A: ‘I was against vaccine mandates in Germany – until hospitals became overwhelmed’

READ ALSO: Fact check: Could Germany legally introduce compulsory vaccination?

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

READ ALSO: 

“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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