BERLIN (REUTERS) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday (July 13) that more people needed to be vaccinated against Covid-19 before restrictions could be lifted, following news that England will scrap nearly all curbs from next week.
England will lift on July 19 the legal requirement to wear masks and for people to socially distance, in what one German official called "a highly risky experiment".
Germany reported 646 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, up from 440 a week ago, with an uptick in the number of cases per 100,000 people over seven days to 6.4 from 4.9.
"The central question is how many people will seek a vaccination," Dr Merkel told a news conference. "The more people are vaccinated, the more free we will all be again," she said.
A move by France to make vaccinations compulsory for all healthcare workers spurred debate in Germany over whether people in some professions should be forced to get a shot, but Dr Merkel said on Tuesday that would not happen.
"There will be no compulsory vaccination," she said, adding that forcing people to get the shot could undermine public trust in the vaccination campaign.
Dr Merkel said that the government would seek to avoid another lockdown of the economy in the autumn, but said it was important to maintain social distancing and other measures to prevent infections from spreading, even as more people are vaccinated.
Her comments echoed Dr Alena Buyx, the head of the German Ethics Council, who said earlier on Tuesday that restrictions should not be eased as long as not even half the population is fully vaccinated.
Dr Buyx told broadcaster ZDF that England's move to lift nearly all remaining coronavirus restrictions was a "highly risky experiment".
The United Kingdom is ahead of most other countries with its vaccination campaign, having now administered two shots to about two thirds of its adult population.
Germany has fully vaccinated 43 per cent of its total population. However, in Britain too, July 19, once billed as "freedom day", is now being treated with wariness by ministers after a new surge in cases.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte conceded on Monday that coronavirus restrictions had been lifted too soon in the Netherlands, and apologised as infections surged to their highest levels of the year.
Mr Markus Soeder, premier of the southern German state of Bavaria, called for another vaccination push, especially among younger people aged 12 to 30, for instance with "vaccinations to go" or drive-in vaccination options.
"Nothing but vaccinations will help," he told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.