Germany’s federal and state governments agreed on tougher coronavirus restrictions for the unvaccinated on Thursday as the country battles a severe fourth wave of the pandemic.
Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her likely successor Olaf Scholz announced the new measures at a news conference in Berlin, following a videoconference meeting with the premiers of the country’s federal states.
Merkel said Germany faces a very serious challenge as the country’s health system increasingly becomes overwhelmed by rapidly rising infections and the virus claiming more lives.
“Today, we talked about an act of national solidarity. With these measures, we’d like to see a decrease in coronavirus infections, ease pressure on our health system,” she said.
According to the measures agreed upon during the meeting, authorities will start implementing the “2G rule” nationwide, allowing only vaccinated and recovered people to have access to shops, restaurants, cinemas, and cultural or sports events.
Only supermarkets and pharmacies will be exempt from these restrictions.
For some cultural and sports events, the “2G plus” rule will apply, meaning that organizers will ask for a negative test from all, including customers who were vaccinated or recovered.
Tougher restrictions for the unvaccinated will also apply in private life, as the government agreed on stricter rules to reduce physical and social contact.
People from the same household will be able to meet with a maximum of two people from another household if any one of them is not vaccinated, according to the new measures.
Germany has seen a rapid increase in coronavirus infections in recent weeks, as people spend more time indoors during the colder months and a considerable segment of the population remains unvaccinated.
The Robert Koch Institute, the country’s disease control agency, confirmed 73,209 new infections on Thursday, and 388 coronavirus-related fatalities in the last 24 hours.
According to the institute, more than 895,000 individuals are still sick due to COVID-19, an alarming figure not seen in the previous three waves of the pandemic.
The German government’s goal has been to vaccinate at least 75% of the population to prevent an exponential rise in new infections during the colder winter months.
But as of Thursday, 57.1 million people, or 68.7% of the population, are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Germany’s overall vaccination rate lags behind many other EU members, including Portugal, Spain, Denmark, and Malta.