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COVID-19 VACCINES

German parliament rejects over-60s vaccine mandate

The German Bundestag has rejected a bill from the SPD, Greens and FDP for a general Covid vaccine mandate for over-60s.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks in a debate ahead of the vote on the general vaccine mandate
German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) speaks in a debate ahead of the vote on the general vaccine mandate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

In a stinging defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition, 378 MPs voted against the bill, while 296 voted in favour. 

Scholz, who in late November touted compulsory jabs for all adults as the surest way out of the pandemic, had set a goal of introducing the jabs in “late February or early March”.

The bill saw two groups of pro-vaccine MPs from the SPD, Greens and FDP join forces to put forward a “compromise” bill that they believed would attract maximal cross-party support.

If passed, it would have required over-60s to present proof of triple-vaccination against Covid-19 by October 1st, 2022, unless they had a medical exemption.

Under the proposals set out in the draft law, people between the ages of 18 and 59 would have been required to undergo a consultation with their doctor to discuss the possibility of getting a Covid jab.

READ ALSO: German parliament to vote on general vaccine mandate

The plans had faced fierce opposition during a debate in the Bundestag on Thursday morning, with politicians from the AfD, Left Party and CDU/CSU lining up to criticise the bill. 

As the results were announced, loud cheers and applause came from AfD politicians seated in the right-hand corner of the Bundestag, as the speaker called on MPs to treat the issue with the “seriousness it warrants”. 

MPs also voted against a motion from the opposition CDU/CSU parties that would have mandated the introduction of a general vaccine register and paved the way for a targeted vaccine mandate for certain professions and vulnerable groups. 

Two motions against a vaccine mandate were also voted down in the Bundestag on Thursday. 

The first, presented by a group of politicians around Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP) had argued for improvements to the vaccination campaign rather than a general mandate, while the second, from the AfD, stated that a vaccine mandate would be ineffective and unconstitutional. 

Parliamentarians had been allowed to vote with their conscience on the issue rather than being whipped along party lines. 

Member comments

  1. What a pleasant surprise i thought for sure they would be mandating jab five to save Christmas.

    I have no doubt that there’s going to be a lockdown towards the end of summer at the latest. As they will return to the pressure pot method for covid jab refusniks. Well I was wrong about the vote maybe im wrong about this too and we can all go back to normal. But judging how now the mandates are lifting and people are loosing their minds. I would not be surprised to see protests begging for more life saving lockdowns soon.

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COVID-19 TESTS

EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

Most people now have to pay to get an antigen test in Germany. Here's what you should know about the new rules.

EXPLAINED: The new rules on getting a Covid test in Germany

What’s happening? 

Until this point everyone in Germany was entitled to at least one free Covid-19 rapid test per week by trained staff. It included a test result certificate which could be delivered to the person by email or in paper. 

But the free-for-all offer has now been “suspended”, according to the Federal Ministry of Health.

The revised testing regulation with the new rules took effect on Thursday June 30th. 

READ ALSO: Germany starts charging for Covid tests 

Who will continue to get a free test?

The Health Ministry says the entitlement to so-called Bürgertests is intended to protect particularly vulnerable people.

These include people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons – like women in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Others to receive free access to tests include family carers and people with disabilities, as well as their carers.

Furthermore, household members of people who have Covid, children up to the age of five, and residents and visitors of nursing homes, institutions for people with disabilities and clinics do not have to pay for a rapid test.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg.

A person gets a Covid test swab in Oldenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hauke-Christian Dittrich

Visitors and people receiving treatment or residents in inpatient or outpatient hospital facilities can also get free tests, as well as people taking part in Covid clinical trials. 

People who need proof that they are negative after a Covid-19 infection, so they can go back to work for example, can still get tested for free.

Employees of nursing homes and hospitals should continue to take Covid rapid tests in their facilities, says the Health Ministry.

How do people prove they are entitled to a free test?

Anyone who wants to claim free testing must identify themselves to the testing agency and provide proof. For example, a birth certificate or passport (for children), and the maternity pass for pregnant women.

Those who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons must present an official medical certificate from their doctor. 

For those getting a test due to a household member being positive, they have to show the positive PCR test of their housemate and proof of matching residential address. 

Who has to pay €3 to get a test?

The €3 tests are intended for private use, including for visits to family celebrations, concerts or another “indoor event”, such as the theatre. 

This is aimed at helping prevent so-called superspreader events, where many people get Covid at once.

A €3 test should also be granted to anyone who gets a red Covid warning on their Corona Warn app, or who plans to meet someone – or people – over the age of 60 or people with a pre-existing illness or disability.

Do you need to provide proof for this?

Yes. The Health Ministry says: “This can be done, for example, by showing an admission ticket to an event, the Corona Warning app or, in the case of contact with high-risk patients, a self-disclosure form or a digital registration process.”

The person getting the test signs a document stating why they are getting the test. 

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said on Thursday that documenting why tests were taking place would help stop fraud as random checks can be carried out. 

What other documents are required?

As before, an official photo ID has to be presented, such as a passport.

Will this be a bit confusing in practice?

It does appear to be a little unclear on how things will work. Plus many people in Germany, and tourists, won’t know about the change in rules since it came about so quickly. 

There was also some confusion on the point of visits to elderly or people with previous illnesses. People who visit relatives in clinics or nursing homes can still get a test free of charge. However, the regulation also states that those who want to meet with over-60s or those with previous illnesses must pay an additional €3 for a test.

A spokesman from the Health Ministry said the difference is whether the meeting is in an institution (where the test is free) or if it’s a private meeting (where a €3 payment is due).

READ ALSO: Germany’s planned changes to Covid vaccination status 

Why is the test offer being restricted?

It was getting too expensive. According to Lauterbach, Bürgertests cost €1 billion per month. The government has reportedly spent more than €10.5 billion on free antigen tests during the pandemic, with suspected fraud of up to €1.5 billion.

The government is also reducing the amount that is given to the test centres per antigen test – from the current €11.50 to €9.50.

A total of €6.50 from the federal government will be added to the €3 to reimburse centres.

Will any German states take over the €3 contribution payment for a test?

Lauterbach previously referred to the possibility that federal states could take over the €3 payment for residents, or groups of residents.

The states, however, quickly signalled that there were no plans to do so.

The €3 would not be replaced “in any of the states”, said Baden-Wuerttemberg’s health minister Manne Lucha (Greens) on Tuesday.

What happens if you get Covid symptoms?

People with Covid symptoms should contact their GP. Doctors in Germany can order a PCR test as part of medical treatment if Covid-19, which will be covered by the patient’s health insurance. 

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