Germany locks down unvaccinated, becoming latest EU country to do so

Germany locks down the unvaccinated: Angela Merkel says non-essential shops and leisure facilities will be open only to those who have been jabbed or recovered from Covid

Germany will lock down its unvaccinated citizens with Angela Merkel saying all non-essential shops and leisure facilities are now off limits to those without jabs. 

Ms Merkel, the country’s outgoing Chancellor, announced today that health pass rules currently in place in some Germany states will be expanded nationwide, affecting non-essential shops, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.   

Additionally, nightclubs will have to close in areas where infections are high, all schoolchildren will be required to wear masks, and private gatherings at which unvaccinated people are present will be limited to three households.

Merkel referred to an ‘Advent Lockdown’, but it was not immediately clear when the rules would come into force or how long they would last.

Speaking alongside incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Merkel said she had hoped that a voluntary approach to vaccination would work – but that the size of Germany’s fourth wave of infections left her no alternative. 

Unvaccinated people will be banned from entering bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas, Christmas markets and non-essential shops according to a draft agreement of new Coronavirus restrictions in Germany (pictured: people, some wearing masks, walk past Christmas market stells on November 30, 2021 in Berlin)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) and her designated successor Olaf Scholz (L) are currently in talks with Germany’s regional government leaders to discuss new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic (Merkel and Scholz pictured November 18, 2021)

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’. 

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. 

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.

People wear mandatory face masks in a shopping street in Dortmund, Germany, Dec. 1, 2021. Germany is dealing with a rising number of new coronavirus COVID-19 infections.

Shoppers walk past a large Christmas tree inside a shopping mall in Berlin, Germany, 01 December 2021. Germany is dealing with a rising number of new coronavirus COVID-19 infections as countries throughout Europe have been increasing restrictions amid fear of the new Omicron variant of concern.

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.

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

Greece has announced mandatory jabs for over 60s, with unvaccinated people facing fines if they don’t comply.

EU 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.

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