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Germany agrees rules to tackle pandemic of unvaccinated


The three parties in talks to form the next German government agreed on a package of measures they could deploy to tackle a record surge in Covid-19 cases which seeks to avoid sweeping restrictions like school closures and curfews.

The legislation, which the SPD, Greens and FDP want to push through parliament next week, is designed to provide a nationwide framework while giving regions room to tighten restrictions in coronavirus hotspots, and will replace a law that expires on Nov. 25. The measures -- many of which are already being used -- include distancing and hygiene rules, obligatory mask wearing and some restrictions for public events and travel.

"We're sending a signal that we're taking responsibility," SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil said Tuesday in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. "We're looking to provide legal certainty and bring this country through a difficult period."

Lawmakers from the three parties decided to let the existing legislation lapse and draw up a new framework due to concerns that some of the measures previously agreed interfered too severely with citizen rights and potentially conflicted with Germany's constitution.

Germany's seven-day incidence rate continued to rise through Monday, climbing to a record 213.7, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute. Cases are surging across Europe, leading to fears that the continent will be forced into another damaging lockdown.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that hospitals in some hotspots are coming under increasing pressure, and urged national coordination of measures.

Health Minister Jens Spahn described the latest situation as "a massive pandemic of the unvaccinated" and has led calls for more people to get their Covid-19 shots. As of Monday, just over 67% of the population were fully inoculated, and just under 70% had received at least one dose.

Spahn and regional counterparts last week agreed to push for booster shots for all adults, and Spahn said that bolstering protection after six months of being fully vaccinated "should be the rule, not the exception."

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to urge the elderly and vulnerable to have Covid booster shots in a televised address to the nation later on Tuesday. A similar TV address in July led to a surge in vaccinations in the following days.

Michael Mueller, the SPD mayor of Berlin, said that he and fellow regional leaders will likely meet with Merkel and Spahn "in the coming week" to coordinate policy.

Some of Germany's 16 states where infection rates are higher, including Bavaria and Saxony, have already tightened measures more than other regions.

"There will always be regional differences because even when the numbers are generally rising we are seeing that some states are in a better position than others," Mueller said in an interview with ARD TV.

All the measures that Germany needs to fight the virus -- beyond the vaccine campaign -- will be contained in the new legislation, he added.

Published : November 10, 2021

By : Bloomberg