Germany plans curbs for unvaccinated as Europe battles Covid-19 spike

With less than 70 per cent fully immunised against Covid-19, Germany is lagging behind European peers.
With less than 70 per cent fully immunised against Covid-19, Germany is lagging behind European peers.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (BLOOMBERG) - Germany is heading toward stiffer restrictions on people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, as authorities across Europe seek to rein in a renewed surge in the pandemic.

Europe's largest economy is grappling with its worst outbreak, posting a fresh record in its contagion rate on Tuesday (Nov 16). The country's response has been complicated by a change in power, with Chancellor Angela Merkel in a caretaker role while negotiations to form a new government continue.

Under pressure to act, lawmakers from the potential ruling coalition are planning to introduce legislation later this week that would impose tougher curbs on people who have not been inoculated, including requiring tests to go to work and take public transportation.

"That is in reality a lockdown for the unvaccinated that's on the way," Mr Dirk Wiese, deputy caucus leader for the SPD in German parliament, said on ZDF television on Tuesday.

With less than 70 per cent fully immunised against Covid-19, Germany is lagging behind European peers such as Spain, Italy and Portugal on vaccine uptake, helping to catapult the country into a devastating new outbreak.

Daily infection rates are breaking records set when the population was mostly defenceless against Covid-19.

The country's Robert Koch Institute on Tuesday reported yet another increase in the nationwide contagion rate. Cases over the past seven days climbed to a record 312.4 per 100,000 people. Deaths jumped by 265, the steepest one-day increase since May 27.

The potential ruling coalition parties are resisting a blanket lockdown and opting for new legislation with greater powers for German states to impose restrictions. Current extraordinary measures that granted the federal government greater powers are being allowed to expire on Nov 25.

Dr Merkel and Mr Olaf Scholz - the Social Democrat aiming to be sworn in to succeed her next month - will hold a video conference with state leaders on Thursday to discuss the next steps.

Europe has again become a hotspot for disease despite widespread availability of vaccines. The Netherlands has reimposed a partial lockdown and Austrian police have been ordered to check individuals on the streets to enforce a lockdown on unvaccinated people.

In Spain, the government in the Basque region is set to announce fresh restrictions on Tuesday after new cases exceeded 150 per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. The local health chief says the measures will mainly target the worst-hit towns.

Italy may gradually raise its risk level to "yellow" from "white" for four northern regions, starting with Friuli-Venezia Giulia next week, according to Italian media. The move would lead to tougher restrictions in bars and restaurants. Wearing masks outdoor could also become mandatory again.

As per the new travel rules approved by the country's Health Ministry on Monday, passengers on high-speed trains across Italy will be obliged to present passes certifying vaccination or negative test results before boarding. There will be also a limit of two passengers per taxi for non-family members.