As Germany starts to feel the pressure from its fourth wave of COVID-19 infections, there are hints that it might take similar action to neighbor Austria and impose tighter restrictions and rules — but mainly for unvaccinated people.
Germany is just one of the countries in Western Europe dealing with a fresh surge of COVID-19 cases, and dishing out new or returning pandemic measures. Last week the Netherlands announced it would be going back into a three-week nationwide partial lockdown after hospitals threatened to be overwhelmed by rising cases. On Monday, German health authorities reported a record 303 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over one week, levels that have not been seen since the pandemic began.
To curtail the spread, authorities are currently discussing stricter measures for non-vaccinated people. One such suggestion is to require unvaccinated people to provide a negative test result before traveling by public transport, public broadcaster ARD reported.
Certain regions of Germany, such as the capital Berlin and the eastern federal state of Saxony, have already imposed so-called “2G Rules.” In essence, this system only allows fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof they've recently recovered from COVID-19 to enter restaurants, bars, gyms, and other public recreational spaces, according to AFP. The rules also state that venues with over 2,000 visitors, such as football games or large music gigs, will not be accessible to unvaccinated adults.
Exceptions will be allowed for children and those who can not receive the vaccine for medical conditions. Other states, such as Brandenburg, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria, are also expected to take up the 2G system soon too.
There are a number of reasons COVID-19 is on the rise in Germany, including the seasonal effect of winter, waning immunity, and the highly contagious Delta variant. However, German scientists are also wary that a significant chunk of the population remains unvaccinated.
"Our vaccination rate is still under 75 percent of the German population," said Dr Christine Falk, president of the German Society for Immunology, according to Deutsche Welle. "Combined with the lack of contact restrictions, this is allowing the virus to spread almost exclusively among the unvaccinated."
This has led to what Jens Spahn, Federal Minister of Health for Germany, called earlier this month: “a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”