| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

Omicron scare: Germany gets tough on unvaccinated, imposes restrictions

In a attempt to break dramatic surge in coronavirus cases and the latest Omicron scare, Germany imposed restrictions on the unvaccinated on Thursday
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor Olaf Scholz agreed with leaders of Germany’s 16 states to bar the unvaccinated from access to all but the most essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and bakeries.
The leaders also passed legislation in national parliament to make vaccination compulsory.
Eager to avoid lockdowns that could derail a fragile recovery of Europe’s biggest economy, they kept businesses open to the almost 69% of the population that is fully vaccinated as well as those with proof of having recovered from COVID-19.
“The situation is very serious,” Merkel said during a news conference with Scholz, who is expected to be elected as chancellor by the Bundestag (lower house) next week. “The number of infections has stabilized, but on a far too high a level.”
She further said that an ethics committee will be asked to draft legislation that will make vaccination mandatory.
Authorities fear the fourth wave of COVID-19 risks overwhelming intensive care units and on Thursday it resulted in more than 73,000 new infections and 388 deaths.
Virologists blame the renewed outbreak on resistance to vaccination by a significant section of society, and have criticised politicians for acting too late to rein in contagion.
Germany’s vaccination rate of just under 70% is around the EU average but lower than countries like Portugal and Ireland.
There have been signs that the curve showing new infections is starting to flatten. The seven-day incidence among 100,000 residents fell for the third consecutive day to 439.2.
Merkel, who hailed the restrictions as a necessary “national act of solidarity,” said that in regions where the 7-day incidence hits 350, steps such as closing nightclubs and music venues and limiting indoor events to 50 people would kick in.