Merkel Pushes For Tighter Covid Rules With German Infections Rising

Angela Merkel is holding talks with regional leaders to agree on tougher restrictions to tackle record gains in Covid infections.

Merkel Pushes For Tighter Covid Rules With German Infections Rising
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg)

Chancellor Angela Merkel is holding talks with Germany’s regional leaders Thursday to agree on tougher restrictions to tackle record gains in Covid-19 infections.

The outgoing German leader made another urgent call for action Wednesday as a fourth virus wave engulfs the country with “full force,” and said the latest video call with the 16 state premiers is overdue. The country logged more than 65,000 infections in a single day for the first time Thursday, with hospitals facing stretched intensive-care units sounding the alarm.

A draft agreement for the talks seen by Bloomberg calls for expanded access to vaccines, with mobile teams, vaccine centers and more offerings in doctors’ offices. It also includes letting employees work from home where possible and restrictions on access to public transport for people who aren’t vaccinated.

“Vaccination is and remains, especially now, the path out of this pandemic,” according to the draft. It leaves open the hospitalization rate above which states could impose curbs on sporting and recreational events as well as restaurant visits.

The video call -- reviving a forum used througout the pandemic -- begins at 1 p.m. local time and a news conference is planned for around 6 p.m.

Germany’s latest pandemic plan:
  • Setting hospitalization benchmark to trigger lockdown measures
  • Expanding states’ vaccination campaigns with increased offerings
  • Increased booster shots to provide more protection against virus
  • Mandatory option for working from home where possible
  • Only vaccinated or recovered people, or those testing negative, on public transport
  • Obligatory testing for all people entering clinics and care homes
  • Stiff punishments for falsifying Covid vaccine certificates or test results

Olaf Scholz, the Social Democrat who’s aiming to succeed Merkel next month, will take part in Thursday’s call. The current vice chancellor and finance minister also made an urgent plea this week for the public to get Covid shots.

Lothar Wieler, the head of the RKI public-health institute, painted a grim picture of the current situation.

“We have never been as alarmed as we are now,” he was quoted as saying Thursday in local media. The news coming from hospitals is “super gloomy,” he added.

Merkel Pushes For Tighter Covid Rules With German Infections Rising

Scholz’s SPD, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, the three parties in talks to form a coalition by early next month, on Thursday used their majority in parliament to approve nationwide measures giving states a legal basis to impose restrictions.

The new rules, which include broad curbs on unvaccinated people and the requirement for firms to allow employees to work from home, replace emergency powers that will expire on Nov. 25. Scholz said the legislation provided a “massive catalog” of measures to stem the latest outbreak.

While some western European nations have stemmed a deadly outbreak with high vaccination rates, Germany has lagged behind with less than 70% of the population fully vaccinated. That’s left some 15 million people over the age of 18 vulnerable to Covid, with the country’s infection rate surging to a record 337 new infections per 100,000 in seven days.

German regions where the vaccination level is lowest, including eastern states such as Saxony and Thuringia, but also Bavaria in the south, have born the brunt of the fourth wave, with some hospitals already overwhelmed.

Germany’s vaccine authority on Thursday recommended people ages 18 years and older get an mRNA booster vaccine six months after their initial shots.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.