Unvaccinated people across Germany will soon be excluded from nonessential stores, restaurants and sports and cultural venues, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Thursday, and parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections.
Merkel announced the measures after a meeting with federal and state leaders, as the nation again topped 70,000 newly confirmed cases in a 24-hour period. She said the steps were necessary to address concerns that hospitals could become overloaded with patients suffering from COVID-19 infections, which are much more likely to be serious in people who have not been vaccinated.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday
“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measures an “act of national solidarity.”
She said officials also agreed on a nationwide requirement to wear masks, new limits on private meetings and a goal of 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.
Merkel said authorities plan to require staff in hospitals and nursing homes to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and she backed the even more contentious idea of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country’s national ethics committee. The mandate could take effect as early as February.
About 68.7% of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the government’s minimum goal of 75%.
In Germany, unvaccinated people will still be able to meet in private settings, but only in very limited numbers. A household with an unvaccinated person over 14 can meet with only two people from another household; the limit does not apply when everyone is vaccinated.
The rise in COVID-19 cases over the past several weeks and the arrival of the new omicron variant have prompted warnings from scientists and doctors that the country’s medical services could become overstretched in the coming weeks unless drastic action is taken. Some hospitals in the south and east of the country have already transferred patients to other parts of Germany because of a shortage of intensive care beds.
Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.