Germany steps closer to making Covid vaccines mandatory, imposes strict curbs on unvaccinated

Germany steps closer to making Covid vaccines mandatory, imposes strict curbs on unvaccinated

A sign showing entry only for “2G,” the term in Germany for people who are either vaccinated against or have recently recovered from Covid-19.

Jens Schlueter | Getty Images

German lawmakers have implemented new curbs for the unvaccinated and made plans to vote on making Covid vaccines mandatory.

National and regional leaders agreed on Thursday to ban Germany’s unvaccinated population from all non-essential businesses, such as bars, restaurants and movie theaters in a bid to encourage vaccine uptake.

Additional measures are also being introduced in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, including limits on live sports spectators, additional tests for the vaccinated and mask mandates in schools.

Data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows that 68.4% of the German population is fully vaccinated, slightly above the EU-wide vaccination rate of 66%.

More than 1 million Covid vaccines were administered in Germany on Thursday, although the vast majority of those were booster doses.

Over the last 28 days, Germany has had the second-highest number of new Covid-19 cases in the world after the United States. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country recorded more than 1.3 million positive tests in the last four weeks and 6,222 deaths from the virus.

Thursday saw 73,209 new cases of the coronavirus in Germany, bringing case incidence up to 439 per 100,000 people, according to the Robert Koch Institute. Last week, a record 79,051 positive tests were reported in a single day.

Meanwhile, 321 people were admitted to Germany’s intensive care units with Covid-19 on Thursday, with 21% of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients.

Both Germany’s DAX index and the pan-European Stoxx 600 index were trading slightly lower on Friday morning following the news that part of the country’s population would be excluded from engaging fully in the economy.

Vaccine mandate looming?

Lars Klingbeil, secretary general of Germany’s SPD party, told broadcaster ZDF on Friday that if the new measures did not lower case rates sufficiently, politicians would have to take “immediate action.”

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that legislation would be drafted to make Covid vaccination mandatory in Germany, adding that lawmakers would vote on the issue by February. Her successor, Olaf Scholz, said he expected the proposal to be approved, and is reported to personally support introducing a vaccine mandate.

Several German lawmakers have already openly called for mandatory vaccination in recent weeks, with one penning an op-ed about how such a mandate would stop “13 million adults bringing an industrial nation like Germany to the brink of desperation.”

Neighbor Austria has already announced that it will make vaccines mandatory for its population from February.

While Austria was the first country in Europe to introduce the requirement, it isn’t the first nation in the world to do so. Last February, Indonesia made Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory for its citizens. Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia and the small island state of Micronesia have all introduced similar measures.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, meanwhile, told reporters earlier this week that the time had come for the EU to consider mandatory vaccine shots to tackle rising infections.

Outlook for Germany

Ralf Reintjes, a professor of epidemiology at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences, cast some doubt over whether Germany’s new measures were stringent enough to slow down the transmission of the virus.

“I’m very glad that the first steps in the right direction have been taken. It’s more than urgent that new measures come and contact is reduced and people get vaccinated,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Friday.

“But on the other hand, I’m not so sure — like many of my colleagues, we’re wondering whether these measures in this critical phase are effective enough to lower this wave. It would have been better to have these measures earlier.”

Berenberg chief economist Holger Schmieding was more optimistic about the situation in Germany.

“The German [vaccination] rate continues to rise, surpassing 0.8% [of the population per day] by now,” he said in a note on Friday. “A tail risk remains that Germany may have to follow Austria into a full-scale lockdown. However, vaccination progress and first signs of a peak in recorded infections seem to mitigate that risk.”

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