To avoid another COVID-19 shutdown, Germany needs to strengthen testing and vaccinations, said the conservative contender to succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor on Tuesday, ahead of cabinet negotiations to reduce the number of new cases.
Merkel and the leaders of the 16 federal states will meet less than seven weeks before a federal election to try to reach an agreement on steps to prevent a new wave of infections caused by the Delta variant’s spread and avoid unpleasant restrictions.
Armin Laschet told the North Rhine-Westphalia assembly, “We want to and will test more to avoid a repeat lockdown.”
Hoping to become chancellor after a Sept. 26 election, Laschet is desperate to avoid new restrictions and said Germany should introduce incentives to encourage more people to get vaccinated and also ramp up compulsory testing.
A draft document prepared for the talks, due to start in the afternoon, proposes that people who are neither vaccinated nor recovered must test negative for COVID-19 to be able to enter indoor restaurants, take part in religious ceremonies and do indoor sport.
The document also showed that the leaders will agree to end free coronavirus tests in October in an effort to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
“I expect that this free offer will be lifted from the middle of October,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller, a member of the Social Democrats who share power on the federal level with Merkel’s conservatives, told ZDF television.
Germany had made the tests free for all in March to make a gradual return to normal life possible after a lockdown to break a third wave of COVID-19. Although around 55% of Germans are fully vaccinated, the pace of jabs has slowed.