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Merkel’s push for German lockdown stalled as death toll surpasses 100,000

BERLIN, GERMANY – SEPTEMBER 22: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) chats with Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz.

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Germany’s Covid-19 crisis continues to rock the nation with the grim news on Thursday that the total number of deaths has now passed 100,000.

However, the new coalition government entering the country is currently resisting a lockdown.

Germany reported a massive number of new Covid cases on Thursday, with more than 75,000 new infections in the past 24 hours (up from 66,884 on Wednesday), while the death toll has now reached 100,119 after another 351 people died from the virus during the previous day.

Government officials have watched the increase in cases with concern for weeks now, and the country’s outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel has reportedly called for a two-week lockdown during a meeting on Tuesday with the country’s new coalition government.

According to the Bild newspaper, the new government alliance of Left Social Democrats and Greens and pro-business Free Democrats opposed the idea, preferring instead to wait and see if the stricter Covid restrictions announced last week would help. to reduce infections.

While Merkel had proposed a lockdown, starting on Thursday, which would have seen the closure of shops, bars and restaurants, the idea was rejected by the new government who said it would have been interpreted by the public as a “Political bad trick” by the government. the old and the new governments, Bild reported on Wednesday.

Mandatory vaccination

(L to R) Christian Lindner of the German Free Democrats (FDP), Olaf Scholz of the German Social Democrats (SPD and, Annalene Baerbock and Robert Habeck of the Green Party pose after presenting their mutually agreed coalition contract to the media on 24 November 2021 in Berlin, Germany.

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After the agreement and the coalition’s political ambitions were announced on Wednesday, Scholz signaled that the Covid crisis was an immediate priority for the government. He started a press conference announcing the coalition deal saying the virus situation in Germany was serious and the country would expand its vaccination campaign, including making vaccines compulsory for some people.

“Vaccination is the way out of this pandemic. In institutions where vulnerable groups are cared for, we should make vaccination compulsory,” Scholz said, without specifying further details.

Meanwhile, new Finance Minister Christian Lindner said the Germans should avoid unnecessary contact this winter “to preserve all of our health in this pandemic”.

Germany has already tightened the rules for Covid amid the latest fourth wave of cases in the country.

Many German states have already restricted access to public spaces like bars, restaurants, cinemas and museums under “2G rules”, restricting access only to those who are vaccinated – “geimpft” in German – or recovered, “genesen”. A number of major German Christmas markets that have not been canceled this year have also adopted 2G rules.

New measures came into force on Wednesday imposing “3G” rules on public transport and anyone going to a workplace, meaning more public spaces are set aside for the vaccinated, recently recovered or those who have had a negative test (“getestet”).

If Germany opts for compulsory vaccinations in certain contexts, it will not be the first to do so. The UK, France and Italy are among the countries that have adopted (or are introducing) compulsory vaccination for certain sectors, such as healthcare workers or nursing homes.

Yet mandatory vaccinations are a thorny subject and have many ethical considerations and Germany could expect to see a step back against this decision, as other countries have done.

Read more: Are the mandates of Covid vaccines ethical? Here’s what medical experts think

Germany has attempted to encourage voluntary adoption of Covid vaccination among its population, but it has one of the lowest Covid vaccination rates in Western Europe, with 68.1% of its population fully vaccinated.

Reluctance to vaccination, the onset of the winter season and the spread of the highly infectious delta Covid variant, which is much more virulent than previous strains, make the virus much more difficult to contain this time around for the Germany, a country widely hailed for its initial handling of the virus. pandemic.

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