Germany to ban unvaccinated people from ‘culture and leisure nationwide’ as COVID fears worsen.
Those who have yet to be vaccinated are to face additional restrictions after German leaders held talks on Thursday.
The concern is mainly with the newly detected Omicron strain of the coronavirus, which is spreading around the world, but remains largely an unknown quantity.
Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chancellor-designate Olaf Scholz spoke with state leaders and agreed on new measures to curb a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases.
Unvaccinated people are to be barred from accessing almost all businesses, except for grocery stores and pharmacies, as Merkel joined Scholz in backing mandatory vaccines.
Federal and state leaders agreed to the following:
Shops, restaurants, museums, movie theaters for vaccinated or recovered people only
Additional tests for the vaccinated
Bundestag to vote on mandatory vaccines in early 2022
Nightclubs, music venues to close in areas where incidence rate hits 350
New measures will take effect once approved by lawmakers, likely in the coming days
A maximum of 15,000 spectators will be allowed in football stadiums
Indoor sports venues will have a maximum of 5,000 in attendance
Private gatherings for unvaccinated will be limited to one household
Mask requirements in schools
With the omicron variant increasing fears of a worsening an already critical situation in Germany and the country's hospitals on the verge of breaking point, Merkel told said: "The situation is very serious. The number of infections has stabilized but on a far too high a level."
Merkel said an ethics committee will be asked to draft legislation to make vaccination compulsory, with the Bundestag debating and voting on the issue early in the new year.
Scholz, who is expected to be announced as Germany's new chancellor next week, said getting vaccinated is "how we get out of this crisis" and "if we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn't be discussing this now."
Just under 69% of Germany's population are fully vaccinated — one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.
Virologists said much of the surge is due to vaccine resistance and skepticism in a large section of society.
What is the pandemic situation in Germany?
Germany has seen a record spike in coronavirus cases — with scientists and health care experts criticizing the government for taking action too late.
Up to 6,000 people could be in intensive care units by Christmas, warned the head of the country's intensive care association DIVI on Wednesday.
While the number of deaths is much lower than it was at its peak last winter, the current number of infections at present is considerably higher — with 74,000 new cases logged on Thursday alone.
Concerns over the new omicron variant are also high, with Germany confirming several cases. Scientists are working to gather data on how transmissible it is and how effective vaccines are against it.
There are signs, however, that the curb could be flattening in Germany, as the seven-day incidence rate among 100,000 residents fell to 439.2 on Thursday — decreasing for the third day in a row.
DW (dpa, Reuters, AFP, AP)