Germany has become the latest country in Europe to announce a nationwide lockdown for anyone who is still unvaccinated and announce plans for a vaccine mandate in 2022.
Under new restrictions, unvaccinated people cannot access anything that is considered outside of an “essential” business, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. It is the latest effort to curb Covid rates from soaring. Unvaccinated people can only meet two people from another household, and will not be allowed into restaurants or bars.
In areas with high Covid rates, bars and nightclubs will be shut down for at least one week in order to curb infections. New limitations on attendance are also to be implemented at large-scale events, such as sporting events.
Vaccinated people will lose the status of vaccination after nine months following their latest shot, encouraging adults to take up booster shots. Those who recently recovered from Covid will not be subjected to the ban and will be able to access non-essential businesses.
The new measures were announced by the outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel along with her successor, Olaf Scholz. It came following crisis talks with regional leaders in Europe.
Merkel and Scholz also said they are supporting proposals to make vaccines mandatory in 2022. The proposals will be voted on in parliament, and at the earliest would be implemented in February.
These announcements come as Germany faces a fourth wave of the Covid pandemic, which is spreading across much of Europe, but mainly in areas with lower vaccination rates. Fears have become heightened due to the latest variant being discovered, Omicron.
In neighboring Austria, the same mandates are being implemented. Austria also plans to make vaccines mandatory for all eligible adults in February 2022. In Greece, vaccines will become mandatory for anyone over 60 starting in mid-January.
Germany and Austria have two of the lower vaccination rates in Western Europe, with both having under 70 percent vaccinated, at 68.4 percent and 65.6 percent respectively. Germany has been facing a surge in cases lately, with the highest death toll hit on Wednesday in the past nine months at 446 deaths.
Merkel leaves office today, and the briefing announcing the latest measures is her last as Chancellor.