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COVID-19 VACCINES

German MPs scrap plan for over-18s Covid vaccine mandate

A plan to bring in compulsory vaccination for all adults in Germany has been shelved due to a lack of support.

A woman receiving her Covid vaccine in February.
A woman receiving her Covid vaccine in February. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

A group of cross-party MPs had proposed a general vaccine mandate that would apply to everyone over the age of 18 in Germany. 

But due to a lack of support for a majority, the group who put it forward have shelved the plan.

They will instead present a ‘compromise’ proposal in the German Bundestag. The new proposal calls for a vaccine mandate for everyone over the age of 50 from October 3rd, plus compulsory counselling on vaccination for all adults.

Introducing a general vaccine mandate has already proved controversial in Germany due a fairly small but loud minority who oppose the idea and protest regularly.

Since experts agree that the Omicron variant of Covid-19 generally causes less severe illness, supporters of a vaccine mandate in Germany have encountered more hurdles. 

Germany’s Justice Minister Marco Buschmann, of the Free Democrats (FDP), even said in February it was “doubtful” that bringing in a vaccine mandate for all adults would be accepted by the Constitutional Court.

READ ALSO: Will Germany introduce a vaccine mandate this year?

What exactly is the new draft proposal?

The latest proposal has been presented by MPs from the ruling coalition parties: the SPD, Greens and FDP. Group members include Dagmar Schmidt, Heike Baehrens and Dirk Wiese from the SPD, Till Steffen and Janosch Dahmen from the Greens, and Katrin Helling-Plahr and Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from the FDP.

As well as a vaccine obligation for people over 50, the draft says that people aged 18 to 49 would have to prove to their health insurer by September 15th that they have at had a consultation on Covid-19 and vaccines, if they are not already jabbed.

The new proposal also leaves open the possibility of extending compulsory vaccination to all adults at a later date, if necessary. The draft proposes a vote in the Bundestag at the beginning of September on whether there should be compulsory shots for people aged 18 to 49.

The group of MPs is also in favour of a vaccination register, as previously called for by the opposition CDU/CSU.

The bill sounds strikingly similar to another recent proposal for a vaccine mandate for over-50s, which also included a mandatory consultation for other adults. 

That bill was put forward earlier by a cross-party group of MPs surrounding FDP health expert Andrew Ullmann, including a number of SPD and Green Party politicians. However, this group wants to focus on increasing the vaccination rate first before imposing a vaccine mandate on over 50s.

There have been debates in the Bundestag so far on a rejection of compulsory vaccination, a compulsory vaccination from the age of 18, a compulsory vaccination from the age of 50 and the CDU/CSU’s concept of a graduated possible compulsory vaccination, which would only apply if the pandemic situation worsens. 

The Bundestag is to vote on compulsory vaccination on Thursday. So far, it’s unclear if any of the draft proposals will gain a majority. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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