Germany’s Covid-19 crisis worsens as the total number of deaths reported on Thursday surpassed 100,000.
However, the country’s incoming coalition government is resisting a lockdown, for now.
Germany reported an alarming number of new Covid cases on Thursday, with more than 75,000 new infections within the last 24 hours while the death toll has now reached 100,119 after 351 more people lost their lives due to the virus previous day.
Government officials have been witnessing a disturbing increase in cases for weeks now. According to reports, the country’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for a two-week lockdown during a meeting on Tuesday with the country’s incoming coalition government.
The Bild newspaper reported that the new government alliance of the left-leaning Social Democrats and Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats were not in favor of the idea of a lockdown and preferred waiting to see if tighter Covid restrictions were announced last week would help in lowering the number of cases.
Although Merkel had proposed a lockdown, starting from Thursday, which would have led to the closure of shops, bars, and restaurants, the incoming government rejected the idea saying that it would have been interpreted by the public as a “bad political trick” by the old and new government as per Bild newspaper.
Germany’s former finance minister and vice-chancellor Olaf Scholz is set to replace Merkel as the new chancellor. Merkel will be leaving the post after 16 years in office. The new coalition government is expected to take office in mid-December.
Earlier on Wednesday, the coalition’s deal and policy ambitions were announced after which Scholz signaled that the Covid crisis was his government’s top priority. He started a news conference saying that the pandemic situation in Germany was serious and that the country would expand its vaccination campaign, including mandating vaccines for some people.
Scholz said, “Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions where vulnerable groups are cared for, we should make vaccination compulsory”.
Meanwhile, incoming finance minister Christian Lindner said that people should avoid all unnecessary contact this winter “to preserve all of our health in this pandemic.”
Germany has already implemented stricter Covid rules amid the recent fourth wave of cases in the country. A huge number of states in Germany have restricted access to public spaces like bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and museums under “2G rules,” restricting access to only those who are vaccinated — “geimpft” in German — or recovered, “genesen.” Some major German Christmas markets which have not been canceled this year have also adopted 2G rules.
On Wednesday, new policies were introduced imposing “3G” rules on public transport and people going to a workplace. This means that more public spaces are restricted to the vaccinated, the recently recovered, or those that have had a negative test (“getestet”).
The UK, France, and Italy are some of the countries that have already adopted or are in the process of introducing compulsory vaccination for some sectors, including health care or care home workers.
However, compulsory vaccinations are still a tricky subject as it has many ethical considerations and there is a possibility that in case Germany imposes mandatory vaccination it could face resistance similar to other countries that have made the move.
Germany has made efforts to encourage voluntary uptake of the Covid vaccination among its population, however, it has one of the lower Covid immunization rates in western Europe, with 68.1% of its population fully vaccinated.
Vaccine hesitancy, along with the incoming winter season and the spread of the highly infectious delta Covid variant, which is far more virulent compared to previous strains, making it much harder to contain this time around for Germany, a country widely praised for its initial handling of the pandemic.