German parliament to debate job-specific vaccine mandate

Health

People line up at a vaccination center to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in a subway station in Duesseldorf, Germany, Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s parliament is set to debate a proposed vaccine mandate for hospital and nursing home staff on Tuesday, among other measures meant to help break the country’s biggest wave so far of coronavirus infections.

At a special session, parliament’s lower house also will discuss plans for vaccinations to be performed in future not just by doctors at vaccination centers and practices, but also by dentists or pharmacists. The aim is to pass the new regulations later this week and have parliament’s upper house, which represents Germany’s 16 state governments, approve them on Friday.

The new regulations also include measures for states to be able to tighten pandemic rules — such as restaurant closures — if needed.

Staff at hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ practices and rescue services will be required to provide proof of vaccination or recovery, or certification that they can’t be vaccinated, starting in mid-March.

At least 69.1% of Germans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, short of the government’s aim of a minimum 75% vaccination rate. The number of unvaccinated has been blamed as a key factor in a surge of new virus cases in recent weeks.

Official figures suggest that the infection rate may have leveled out or be decreasing slightly, but new infections are still too high and Germany is seeing more deaths.

German federal and state leaders last week announced tough new restrictions that largely target unvaccinated people. In a longer-term move, parliament will consider a general vaccine mandate. Detailed plans for that mandate haven’t yet been drawn up.

The national disease control center on Tuesday reported 36,059 new daily cases, down from 45,753 a week ago. The seven-day infection rate stood at 432.2 new cases per 100,000 residents. Another 399 deaths in 24 hours brought Germany’s total in the pandemic to 103,520.

Several German state security officials warned that a possible general vaccine mandate could lead to more violent protests and further radicalize opponents of coronavirus measures.

“Since the beginning of the corona pandemic, it can be observed that a tightening of corona containment measures results in more protests and demonstrations,” said Tamara Zieschang, the interior minister of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, according to Spiegel Online.

In the eastern state of Brandenburg, the head of the state intelligence service expressed concern that far-right extremists are using demonstrations against COVID-19 measures to incite protesters against the country’s democracy in general.

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