Germany could become the next country to impose stricter rules on those not fully vaccinated, after the parties forming the future new coalition government harden their proposed Covid-19 approach in parliament.
The proposed measures would require Germans to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test in order to ride a bus or train, in an extension of the country’s “3G” system that requires certain locations and institutions to be to enter.
The policy paper of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens has been put to a vote in the Bundestag as the three so-called “traffic light” parties are close to forming a new government.
It comes as Germany tackles a wave of infections and reflects a growing anger in much of the EU over those who continue to refuse a vaccination.
About two-thirds of Germans are fully vaccinated – one of the lowest rates in Western Europe – and the country’s leading politicians have used harsh rhetoric and restrictive measures in an effort to increase the rate.
In the meantime, the infections are increasing at a rapid pace. The country is approaching a seven-day moving average of 40,000 new cases per day, the highest number since the start of the pandemic and more than double the figure in early November.
If the measures proposed by the coalition are approved, they would bring Germany closer to its southern neighbor Austria, where a lockdown came into effect on Monday specifically targeting unvaccinated people. It bans unvaccinated people — more than a third of the country’s population — from leaving their homes except for a few specific reasons.
The measures are enforced by police officers who conduct spot checks and were unveiled alongside a serious warning from the country’s new chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg. He called the country’s vaccine uptake “embarrassingly low” and said those who have not been vaccinated will now have to experience “exactly what we all had to go through in 2020”.
Austria, where vaccination coverage is lower than in Germany, is struggling with an intense wave of infections. In contrast, Spain and Portugal avoided the brunt of the winter wave after achieving the highest vaccination rate in Europe.
Great Britain needs boosters
Other countries in Europe are taking steps to improve vaccine use. On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson virtually confirmed that a third, booster vaccine shot should soon be considered fully vaccinated.
“It’s very clear that getting three shots — getting your booster — is going to be an important fact and it will make your life easier in all sorts of ways, and we’re going to have to adjust our concept of what a full-blown vaccination entails. take that into account,” Johnson said at a news conference.
That step has already been taken in France, where business is increasing. The country this week introduced stricter entry rules for unvaccinated travelers from 16 EU countries.
Tensions are mounting in some parts of the block; in Athens, public health workers protested against wages and working conditions on Monday, as pressure mounted on Greek hospitals.
Greece has published record numbers of Covid-19 cases several times this month. The country mandated vaccinations for health workers in July, but protesters say the move has left a staff backlog that has not been filled, Reuters reported.
“The number of stretchers in the hospitals on duty is increasing by the dozen, (and) patients are being prioritized into intensive care units, based on their age,” Michalis Giannakos, the president of the Public Hospital Workers Federation, told Reuters .