BERLIN -Workers at German hospitals, doctor’s offices and nursing homes must prove that they are vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 by mid-March as part of new legislation passed by the parliament on Friday.
Beyond compulsory vaccinations for certain professions from mid-March, the new legislation also allows for Germany’s 16 federal states to close bars and restaurants as well as to ban large events due to high infection rates.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach defended restrictions on the unvaccinated and the mandatory jabs for medical and nursing staff in front of the Bundestag lower house.
“It’s absolutely unacceptable that in establishments where people live, who put their trust in us to protect them, that people are unnecessarily dying because unvaccinated work there,” Lauterbach said.
Germany, in the grip of a fourth wave of infections, has a relatively low rate of vaccination compared with the rest of Europe. Some 69% of the population is fully vaccinated, while at least 21% have received a booster shot, according to official numbers.
The new law also aims to make vaccination more accessible by allowing veterinarians, dentists and pharmacists to administer them, though only for a set period of time.
The Robert Koch Institute infectious disease body reported 61,288 new infections from the coronavirus and 484 more COVID-related deaths on Friday. A total of 104,996 people in Germany have died in the pandemic.
A survey by broadcaster ZDF found that more than three quarters of Germans were in favour of severe restrictions on the unvaccinated, while 21% did not think it was the right course.
Nearly 70% were in favour of making vaccines mandatory, a step that is supported by Chancellor Olaf Scholz and could be in practice by end-February.