German support grows for mandatory vaccines as cases jump

German officials said they expected to make Covid jabs mandatory for soldiers soon.
German officials said they expected to make Covid jabs mandatory for soldiers soon.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (REUTERS, AFP) - A leader of Germany's Greens, set to be part of a new government, expressed support on Wednesday (Nov 24) for mandatory vaccinations as the number of infections jumped again.

German officials, meanwhile, said they expected to make Covid jabs mandatory for soldiers "soon", amid the raging fourth wave of the pandemic.

Germany on Wednesday registered 66,884 new coronavirus infections and 335 more deaths related to the virus, bringing the total number of deaths close to 100,000, according to figures by the Robert-Koch-Institute of infectious diseases on Wednesday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is preparing to hand over to a new government of Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats, called in the leaders of these parties on Tuesday to discuss the pandemic.

Mrs Merkel's centre-right CDU party, gearing up for a stint in the opposition, urged the incoming Olaf Scholz-led coalition government to tell the German public where they stood on the issue.

Germany's weekly incidence rate stood at 399.8 new coronavirus infections per 100,000 people on Tuesday, an all-time high, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of the Greens, said continual lockdowns and restrictions on social contact were a bigger imposition than demanding vaccination.

"This is a proposal not for right now," she told radio station Deutschlandfunk. Initially, it would be about mandatory vaccinations for example in care facilities to protect particularly sensitive groups.

Introducing a compulsory vaccination would not mean that this would be enforced by police, she added.

Germans have been waiting in line for hours to get vaccinated in recent days, with about 68 per cent of the population fully vaccinated, below the average in western Europe.

Meanwhile, Germany's Ethics Council indicated it could reconsider its rejection of compulsory vaccination.

"We are really thinking about it, because we see that the numbers are rising and we have this very acute crisis situation," the deputy chairperson of the Ethics Council, Susanne Schreiber, told RTL television.

Neighbouring Austria has reimposed a full lockdown due to surging caseloads and has said it will introduce compulsory vaccination next year.

German Defence ministry officials and army personnel representatives on Tuesday agreed "to include the Covid vaccine on the list of vaccines" required for soldiers, a ministry spokesman told AFP.

Although the mandate has yet to be formalised, "the implementation is expected soon", he added.

The move would make German troops the first public servants to be obliged to be jabbed against the virus. It comes as the army is preparing to deploy soldiers to help local authorities with vaccinations, tests and other efforts to counter soaring infection rates expected in the weeks ahead.

Only those soldiers on foreign missions have so far been obliged to be vaccinated.

The surge in coronavirus cases and rapidly filling intensive care beds have ignited a fierce debate in Germany about whether to follow Austria's example and make vaccines mandatory for all citizens.