Germany Puts Restrictions on the Unvaccinated to Stem Covid Surge
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a catalog of measures on Thursday that will allow access to restaurants, bars and public events in areas with high hospitalization rates only for people who are vaccinated or have recovered. It’s the latest attempt by leaders across the European Union to stem a renewed surge of infections with tighter restrictions.
“We are in the midst of the fourth wave and have to deal with a dramatic situation and draw the needed conclusions,” Merkel told reporters after a meeting of national and state government leaders.
Extraordinary measures “are necessary and justified” given the much higher risk of infection among the unvaccinated, the leaders said in a statement. They’ll apply to a broad range of activities and venues from sports and cultural events to restaurants, bars and gyms.
Germany, which is Europe’s biggest economy, reported more than 65,000 infections in a day for the first time Thursday and hospitals faced with stretched intensive-care units are sounding the alarm. The measures, which include a requirement for employers to let employees to work from home, replace emergency powers that will expire on Nov. 25.
The measures kick in above a certain level of hospitalizations. Based on official data, almost all of Germany exceeds that level, which was set at three hospitalizations per 100,000 people on a rolling seven-day average. Business owners and event organizers face fines if they don’t enforce the restrictions.
The officials also agreed to resume free Covid tests, which were suspended during a relative lull in new cases.
“Vaccination was and is the way out of the pandemic, especially now,” according to the statement.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, a federal health agency, painted a grim picture.
“We have never been as alarmed as we are now,” German media quoted him as saying during a panel discussion on Wednesday. The news from hospitals is “super gloomy,” he said.
The Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats, who have a majority in the German lower house and are in talks to form a government to succeed Merkel’s center-right administration, on Thursday approved nationwide measures giving states a legal basis to impose restrictions.