Thursday, July 7

Germany’s Chancellor-Appointed Endorses COVID Vaccine Mandate


Germany’s next chancellor said on Tuesday that he will back a proposal to require coronavirus vaccination for everyone next year, but that lawmakers should be free to vote according to their conscience on the issue.

Olaf Scholz, whose center-left Social Democrats narrowly won a national election in September, is expected to take office next week once his party and two others approve a deal to form the next government. The two-month transition, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel in charge, has been blamed for Germany’s slow response to the latest surge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Speaking to public broadcaster ARD after a conference call between Merkel, himself and the governors of Germany’s 16 states, Scholz insisted that “the leadership is there.”

During his call, national and state leaders discussed new measures to curb the outbreak, including restrictions on the purchase of unvaccinated people and limiting crowds at soccer games, along with possible moves toward a vaccination mandate for everybody. These must be approved at an additional meeting on Thursday.

“We will pave the way for members of the German Bundestag to make a conscientious decision on a general vaccine mandate that will come into force next year, in February or early March, and that everyone can prepare for now,” Scholz said.

“I will vote in favor of such a law,” he added.

Hours before Tuesday’s meeting, Germany’s highest court strengthened politicians’ hand by rejecting complaints against curfews and other restrictions imposed earlier this year.

Many states have tightened the rules on their own, but experts and politicians have called for more coordinated national action as infection rates hit new highs. Germany’s federal structure and the transition from Merkel’s national government to a new one under Scholz since the country’s September elections have slowed decision-making.

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Talks on Tuesday resulted in an agreement that “additional measures” are needed to reduce infections and pressure on hospitals, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

The proposals include contact restrictions for unvaccinated individuals in particular, requiring individuals to present proof of vaccination or recovery at non-essential stores, and restrictions on major events, he said.

A limited vaccine mandate is already in the works for some facilities, but German officials have been hesitant to make it mandatory for all, fearing opposition from those who oppose the vaccine. Neighboring Austria has already decided that vaccinations are mandatory from February.

At least 68.5% of the population of 83 million is now fully vaccinated, but that is below the minimum threshold of 75% expected by the government.

Seibert said a new permanent group of experts to advise officials on how to tackle the pandemic, the creation of which Scholz announced last week, will be headed by General Carsten Breuer, the army’s chief of national operations.

Officials highlighted the need to step up Germany’s vaccination campaign and allow more people to carry out vaccinations.

“It has taken a while, there has been a back and forth and some conflicts on the question of who should do what and when, but to this day that seems solvable,” said Markus Soeder, governor of Bavaria, after the videoconference on Tuesday. . The “final decisions” must be defined at the meeting of national and state leaders on Thursday, he said.

The governor of the hardest-hit state of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said he is then waiting for an agreement to play Bundesliga football matches without spectators. Soeder noted that there is still some disagreement on the matter, but said that “if the Christmas markets are closed, it is not consistent to have full stadiums.” He said he would propose excluding viewers until at least the end of the year.

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New infections have skyrocketed in recent weeks in the European Union’s most populous country, particularly in the east and south, where hospitals are already transferring intensive care patients to other parts of Germany. They have reached much higher levels than what the country saw earlier this year, although many more Germans are vaccinated now than then.

On Tuesday, the country’s seven-day infection rate fell for the first time in more than three weeks, but, at 452.2 new cases per 100,000 residents, it was just below Monday’s record of 452.4. The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said 45,753 cases were reported in the past 24 hours. Another 388 deaths were recorded, bringing Germany’s total so far to 101,344.

Early Tuesday, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court ruled that the most controversial measures contained in federal “emergency brake” legislation that ran from April to late June were in line with the constitution. These included a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and school closings in areas with high rates of coronavirus infection.

That added to pressure for officials to act, as did the emergence in Germany and many other countries of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.


www.euronews.com

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