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Covid-19: Germany is heading towards a vaccine obligation from February to face Omicron


Germany adopted new restrictive measures on Thursday aimed in particular at people not vaccinated against Covid-19 in an attempt to stem a fourth epidemic wave, and is considering the introduction of a vaccination obligation from next February, in a context of concerns around the new Omicron variant.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, her successor Olaf Scholz and representatives of the 16 German Länder have agreed to limit the access of the unvaccinated to strictly essential businesses such as food stores, pharmacies or bakeries for example.

They also reached an agreement to pass a law to put in place a vaccination obligation at the national level. The German National Ethics Council will have to draft the bill, which will be debated and voted on by the Bundestag by February.

Specific measures will also be taken in regions where the incidence rate exceeds 350 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, with a limit to 50 people for gatherings in closed places, the closure of nightclubs and performance venues.

Nearly 400 deaths in 24 hours

So many measures of “national solidarity” for Angela Merkel, which aim to prevent new confinements from affecting the still fragile recovery of the largest economy in the euro zone.

“The situation is very serious,” Angela Merkel said at a press conference alongside Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected Chancellor next week by the Bundestag. “The number of new infections has stabilized, but at a level that is still far too high,” she added.

While the last available toll was 73,000 new infections with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus and 388 deaths attributed to Covid-19 in 24 hours in the country, the authorities fear that the hospital system will once again be overwhelmed. .

Reluctance to vaccine

For many experts, the resurgence of contamination in Germany is linked in particular to the reluctance of a large part of the population with regard to vaccination. They also blame the authorities for having taken too long to act to limit the spread of the virus.

The debate around compulsory vaccination has gained momentum in recent weeks, as Europe faces a new epidemic wave.

Austria already announced last month that it would make vaccination against Covid-19 compulsory from next February.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Wednesday that such a possibility should be discussed at the European level, even if these decisions fall under the prerogatives of the member states.

For Véran, the choice of the health pass paid off

“The vaccine obligation is not the choice that France made”, recalled Wednesday the French Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, on the sidelines of a trip to a Paris vaccination center.

“We have chosen the health pass, which is a powerful incentive” and has enabled us to have much higher vaccination coverage than the countries which are currently wondering about the advisability of establishing a vaccination obligation, a he then explained.

In France, 75.5% of the total population has a complete vaccination schedule while vaccination coverage stands at nearly 68% in Germany and 64.5% in Austria, according to official data.