Germany Moves Toward Mandatory Covid Shots as Europe Clamps Down
(Bloomberg) -- Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control.
Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.
“My recommendation is that we don’t do this as a government, because it’s an issue of conscience,” he said on Tuesday in an online interview with the Bild newspaper.
Scholz and outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel met with state premiers to discuss the country’s outbreak. While the measure wasn’t approved at the talks, there’s a growing consensus across the political spectrum that shots will have to be required.
“Almost all are in agreement that we’re moving forward on the issue of general mandatory vaccination,” Markus Soeder, the conservative premier of Bavaria, said after a meeting with Merkel, Scholz and other state leaders.
A vaccine mandate would be a major departure for the new administration after German leaders vowed for months that it would let citizens to decide if they wanted to take up the government’s offer to get inoculated. The soft tone may have contributed to the country’s relatively low vaccination rate of less than 70%.
Scholz, Merkel and the heads of Germany’s 16 states discussed a number of proposals to impose new curbs, including restrictions on unvaccinated people, limiting fans at soccer games and closing bars and nightclubs in hard-hit areas. They will meet again on Thursday to make final decisions.
“There is agreement that the fourth wave of the pandemic has led to an extremely serious -- and in some regions dramatic -- situation in our health system,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, said in an emailed statement. “The federal and state governments will respond together and in resolute fashion.”
The latest surge in infections appears to have caught German authorities by surprise, and the transition to a new administration under Social Democrat Scholz has complicated pandemic coordination in Europe’s largest economy.
States led by Merkel’s conservative bloc, which is moving into opposition, also called for the new government to prepare for mandatory vaccinations, as well as hard contact restrictions for unvaccinated people, reduced capacity for large events and the shuttering of clubs, according to a document seen by Bloomberg.
Pressure has been growing ahead of the change in power and the gathering allowed the politicians to address a Constitutional Court ruling on Tuesday, which rejected challenges to measures such as nighttime curfews and closing schools. The decision could give leaders additional legal backing for a new round of tougher restrictions, but they’re unlikely to impose a widespread lockdown.
Alongside possible new measures in Germany, Norway extended quarantine rules for people testing positive for Covid, while Greece made Covid vaccines compulsory for people above 60, including a monthly fine of 100 euros ($114) a month for those who don’t comply. Switzerland and Finland also are considering tighter curbs to clamp down on public contact.
France is also bracing for a worsening outbreak. The country reported 47,000 new infections in the last 24 hours, the highest daily level since April. Health Minister Olivier Veran said during government questions in the National Assembly that by the end of this week daily cases could exceed the peak of the third wave of the virus eight months ago.
Authorities have been on high alert as the omicron variant spreads. The Dutch national health service confirmed that the strain, first identified in South Africa, was in the Netherlands a earlier than first thought after detecting two cases in test samples taken a week ago.
The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control has compiled reports of 44 cases of omicron in 11 European countries. So far, those cases have all been recorded with minor symptoms or they’re asymptomatic.
The European Medicines Agency said it would use expedited procedures to approve new versions of Covid vaccines to address omicron if the current ones provide insufficient protection. That would mean regulatory approval could be completed in three to four months after companies move forward.
|A Roundup of Europe’s Tougher Restrictions|
Authorities plan to make decisions on Thursday on proposals including:
The Swiss government is considering requiring all people or just the unvaccinated to work from home. Another option is to demand that workers in indoor settings wear masks. Other proposals being looked at include:
In a speech to parliament, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store announced plans to:
The Finnish government is holding talks on Tuesday and, according to local media, is looking at:
People arriving in Ireland will require a negative Covid test from Friday, national broadcaster RTE reports.
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