German lawmakers approved stricter Covid restrictions on Thursday, a day after the head of the national agency responsible for monitoring the pandemic warned of a “really bad Christmas” and said the coronavirus had once again become a nationwide crisis.
“Every man and mouse who can get vaccinated needs to get vaccinated now,” Lothar Wieler, the agency’s head, the Robert Koch Institute, said in a video discussion with the leader of Saxony, the German state with the highest infection rates.
“Otherwise,” added Dr. Wieler, “we will not manage this crisis.”
The seemingly extraordinary remarks of a normally composed scientist came when Germany posted yet another record of daily new infections. The agency on Wednesday reported more than 65,000 new cases – a 61 percent increase over two weeks earlier – and 264 deaths.
On Thursday, lawmakers in parliament passed a bill whose measures include a rule that only people who are vaccinated against the virus have recovered from an infection or test negative can drive public transportation or participate in work in person. Less than 70 percent of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated.
The new measures, proposed by the parties, which are expected to replace Chancellor Angela Merkel in government, would also require employers to offer a possibility of working from home when possible.
To take effect, the rules must also be approved by the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, a move that is expected to take place on Friday. Since the proposal of the bill at the beginning of last week, the parties have tightened some of the proposals amid criticism that the measures were insufficient to curb the latest outbreak.
Saxony Governor Michael Kretschmer said Thursday his state lawmakers will vote on tough new containment measures on Friday. He described the restrictions as a “hard, clear wavebreaker,” which will last for several weeks.
Mrs Merkel is scheduled to meet with state governors on Thursday afternoon to try to form a unified strategy and discuss ways to increase vaccination.