Germany Plans to Impose Tighter Contact Curbs to Confront Omicron
(Bloomberg) -- Germany plans to impose tighter contact restrictions starting after Christmas to help ward off the fast-spreading omicron variant of Covid-19 and protect hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz will host talks with regional leaders Tuesday to discuss stricter curbs that go beyond those already in place in Europe’s biggest economy, as well as how to further accelerate Germany’s vaccination campaign.
Measures on the table include reducing the number of people allowed at indoor gatherings to 10 from Dec. 28 and closing nightclubs to limit social interaction over the New Year festive period, according to a draft agreement prepared by Scholz’s office for the meeting and obtained by Bloomberg.
“We need new restrictions on personal contacts so that we’re well prepared when the new variant of the virus spreads everywhere in Europe,” Scholz said Monday after talks with his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi in Rome. “I think we’ll be able to find consensus on the way forward and that’s important at this time.”
The government’s new panel of health experts painted a bleak picture of the situation in Germany following a meeting Sunday, saying that they expect “enormous challenges in the coming weeks and months.”
Germany is already in what officials have termed a “lockdown of the unvaccinated,” under which only those who are inoculated or recovered can access non-essential stores, hotels and restaurants.
The experts warned against interpreting the recent decline in the infection rate as a “sign of easing,” and said that omicron could lead to an “explosive spread.”
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach on Sunday ruled out a strict lockdown like the one imposed in neighboring Netherlands, but warned that a “critical number” of omicron cases has already been exceeded.
“This wave can no longer be stopped completely,” Lauterbach said in an interview with ARD television. “And we have to face it, that’s very clear.”
Since taking office this month, Lauterbach has been pushing hard to persuade vaccine holdouts to get immunized and to speed up efforts to administer booster shots.
|Source: Chancellery draft|
Germany’s inoculation campaign has been relatively sluggish, and more than a fifth of the population aged five and older -- or about 18 million people -- who are eligible have yet to be vaccinated, according to health ministry data.
The government experts said Sunday that omicron could pose a significant threat to “critical infrastructure” including hospitals, police, fire fighters, telecommunications and electricity and water supplies.
“We hope that with our vaccination campaign and our boosters we can deal with this situation as effectively as possible,” Scholz said in Rome.
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