Senior physician Thomas Marks puts on personal protective equipment (PPE) before entering the ward of a patient infected with the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital in Freising, southern Germany.
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Germany is set to enact tougher restrictions on Covid-19 and may even opt for complete isolation amid record daily infections and mounting pressure on hospitals.
This week, the country’s health minister Jens Spahn has already issued a strong warning to Germans, saying that by the end of winter “almost everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or die.” Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on the heads of Germany’s 16 federal states (which have largely been free to determine their own measures on Covid) to adopt stricter rules by Wednesday.
Spahn reiterated the request on Tuesday, adding that more public spaces should be restricted to vaccinated, recently recovered, or test-negative people – also known as the “3G rule.” As of Wednesday, 3G rules apply to all Germans going to work or using public transport.
Many German states have already restricted access to public places such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and museums in accordance with the “2G rules”, restricting access only to those who are vaccinated (“geimpft” in German – or recovered, “genesen”) … A number of major German Christmas markets that have not been canceled this year have adopted the 2G rules.
The 2G sign can be seen during the opening of the Christmas market in Cologne, Germany on November 22, 2021, as the number of coronavirus cases in Germany is at its peak.
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Last week, the government and the federal states agreed on further nationwide restrictions this will take effect depending on the number of hospitalizations in the respective federal state.
Hospitals and vaccines
Spahn also warned of growing pressure on hospitals in Germany, noting that “we are forced to relocate patients as intensive care units are overcrowded and this is not only affecting patients with Covid-19,” he told German radio Deutschlandfunk, Reuters reported. translation.
The alert came as the number of daily Covid infections hit a new record on Wednesday, with 66,884 new cases (a huge number for Germany and a big jump from the 45,326 new cases reported on Tuesday), with a seven-day incidence rate exceeding 400 for according to the Robert Koch Institute, for the first time since the start of the pandemic. To date, nearly 100,000 people have died from the virus in Germany.
German officials are also reported to be considering mandatory vaccinations as they have already called on those not yet vaccinated to get vaccinated. The country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe: 68% of the population is fully vaccinated.
Like other European countries, Germany is desperate to step up its Covid vaccinations and use booster vaccines as winter approaches. But hesitation over vaccinations and the proliferation of the highly infectious delta-Covid variant, which is far more dangerous than previous strains, make the task much more difficult.
The idea of mandatory vaccinations has been a controversial idea in Europe, but the dramatic landscape of Covid has made the debate more widespread, and some officials believe introducing mandatory vaccines is the only way to stop the virus.
Covid vaccines significantly reduce the risk of severe infection, hospitalization, and death from the virus, but we also know that immunity to vaccines wanes after about six months and that they are not 100% effective at reducing transmission.
Experts say there are a number of ethical issues to consider when it comes to vaccine requirements, but some countries do not factor in concerns about the overall benefits of vaccination.
Austria has already announced that it will make Covid vaccines mandatory from February 1 next year (it has also just introduced complete isolation), and a number of countries (such as Italy and France) have made Covid vaccines mandatory for frontline healthcare workers. In the spring of 2022, the UK will follow suit.
The German states have called for compulsory vaccinations of medical workers and medical personnel, an idea being considered by the federal government, which previously ruled out compulsory vaccinations.
The fact that some legislators are now calling for mandatory vaccinations shows the current level of concern in Germany about the Covid crisis.
“We have reached the point where we need to say clearly that we need de facto mandatory vaccinations and isolation for the unvaccinated,” said Tilman Kuban, head of the youth wing of the Merkel Christian Democratic Union. wrote on Sunday in Die Welt newspaper, noting that 90% of coronavirus patients in intensive care beds in Germany are not vaccinated.
Kuban said the unvaccinated are driving Germany “to the brink of despair,” adding that “it cannot be that the entire population is locked up every winter.”
Ongoing political negotiations to form a new coalition government continue amid the German Covid crisis. However, negotiations between the Social Democratic Party, Greens and the Free Democratic Party are expected to conclude at any moment, and a coalition agreement is expected to be announced on Wednesday.