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Saxony’s Covid rules get mixed reaction from the vaccine hesitant

The eastern German state of Saxony may have ordered tough restrictions on the unvaccinated to push them to get the Covid-19 jab, but shop assistant Sabine Lonnatzsch, 59, is unmoved.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, eastern Germany, to get a Covid vaccination without an appointment, on November 8th. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “discriminatory” because they are “pushing the unvaccinated further into a corner,” she says. 

Lonnatzsch won’t change her mind about getting inoculated – she just won’t go to restaurants or events anymore.

“I’ve had corona cases in my family and in my eyes it is nothing more than a bad flu,” she says.

With Covid-19 infections rocketing in Germany, Saxony this week became the first to largely exclude unvaccinated people from indoor dining, cinemas and bars.

READ ALSO: Germany divided over Covid restrictions for the unvaccinated 

The new rules, likely to be emulated by other states in the coming weeks, are designed not only to reduce the spread of Covid-19 but also to encourage more people to get inoculated.

But Lonnatzsch is not the only one resisting the jab in the town of Radeberg in Bautzen district, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country at just 45.7 percent.

The clothing store No 1 Mode where she works has a sign in the window that lets customers know that all are welcome – regardless of vaccination status.

‘Bad for business’

Across the town square, the co-owner of Cafe Roethig also has no plans to get the vaccine. Like many people in the region, Carola Roethig, 58, is “not convinced” by the jab because “it was developed in such a short space of time”.

The district of Bautzen has one of the highest incidence rates in the country at 645.3 cases per 100,000 people, but Roethig is not worried about catching the virus.

People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony.
People queue at a vaccination centre in Radeberg, Saxony. Photo: TOBIAS SCHWARZ / AFP

The new rules are “definitely bad for business,” she says at the cafe’s bakery counter, which is lined with untouched fresh cakes, tarts and iced donuts.

“Many of our customers are not vaccinated, so we are losing income, because fewer people are coming in,” she says.

READ ALSO:

The rules are also bad for her personal life.

“I’m not allowed to go to a restaurant in the evening and have a nice dinner with my husband. I don’t think it is right,” says Roethig.

Outside the cafe, 40-year-old Susan feels the same.

“Nothing would convince me” to get the jab, she says, without giving her last name.

“I see no sense in it because (vaccinated people) can still get the disease and infect others.”

Vaccine push

The new rules come as new infections surge in Germany, with the national incidence rate reaching 213.7 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven
days on Tuesday – a record since the pandemic began.

The political parties looking to form a coalition government after September’s election have so far ruled out compulsory vaccinations and general
lockdowns to tackle the surge.

But with just 67 percent of the population fully jabbed, ministers say encouraging more people to get vaccinated is key to bringing the numbers down.

Outside Radeberg town hall, a modest queue of people formed for a vaccination event organised to encourage more people to get the jab.

Kitchen assistant Mirmirza Kabirzada, 36, had previously hesitated because “I heard that many people died in Norway and others got a fever, so I was a little bit afraid”.

But with the numbers rising so dramatically, “now I realised this is very important,” he says.

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine has been linked to very rare and potentially fatal blood clots, but experts agree that the benefits far outweigh the risks.

Intensive care nurse Nicole Wieberneit, 39, is waiting in line to get her booster.

She is optimistic that the new rules will encourage more people to get vaccinated.

“When it becomes about the freedom to travel, to go out to eat, I think more people will come forward. Freedom is very important to people in Saxony,” she says.

By Femke COLBORNE

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COVID-19 RULES

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden’s Covid laws really means

With the expiry of Sweden's two temporary Covid-19 laws, the downgrading of the virus's threat classification, and the end of the last travel restrictions, April, officially at least, marks the end of the pandemic. We explain what it means.

End of the pandemic? What the expiry of Sweden's Covid laws really means

What are the two laws which expire on April 1st? 

Sweden’s parliament voted last week to let the two temporary laws put in place to battle the Covid-19 pandemic expire on April 1st.

The first law is the so-called Covid-19 law, or “the law on special restrictions to limit the spread of the Covid-19 illness”, which was used during the pandemic to temporarily empower the authorities to limit the number of visitors to shops, gyms, and sports facilities. It also gave the government power to limit the number of people who could gather in public places like parks and beaches. 

The second law was the “law on temporary restrictions at serving places”. This gave the authorities, among other things, the power to limit opening times, and force bars and restaurants to only serve seated customers.  

What impact will their expiry have? 

The immediate impact on life in Sweden will be close to zero, as the restrictions imposed on the back of these two laws were lifted months ago. But it does means that if the government does end up wanting to bring back these infection control measures, it will have to pass new versions of the laws before doing so. 

How is the classification of Covid-19 changing? 

The government decided at the start of February that it would stop classifying Covid-19 both as a “critical threat to society” and “a disease that’s dangerous to the public” on April 1st.

These classifications empowered the government under the infectious diseases law that existed in Sweden before the pandemic to impose health checks on inbound passengers, place people in quarantine, and ban people from entering certain areas, among other measures. 

What impact will this change have? 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a disease that’s dangerous to the public”, or an allmänfarlig sjukdom, people who suspect they have caught the virus, are no longer expected to visit a doctor or get tested, and they cannot be ordered to get tested by a court on the recommendation of an infectious diseases doctor. People with the virus can also no longer be required to aid with contact tracing or to go into quarantine. 

Now Covid-19 is no longer classified as “a critical threat to society”, or samhällsfarlig, the government can no longer order health checks at border posts, quarantine, or ban people from certain areas. 

The end of Sweden’s last remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions

Sweden’s last remaining travel restriction, the entry ban for non-EU arrivals, expired on March 31st.  This means that from April 1st, Sweden’s travel rules return to how they were before the Covid-19 pandemic began. 

No one will be required to show a vaccination or test certificate to enter the country, and no one will be barred from entering the country because their home country or departure country is not deemed to have a sufficiently good vaccination program or infection control measures. 

Does that mean the pandemic is over? 

Not as such. Infection rates are actually rising across Europe on the back of yet another version of the omicron variant. 

“There is still a pandemic going on and we all need to make sure that we live with it in a balanced way,” the Public Health Agency’s director-general, Karin Tegmark Wisell, told SVT

Her colleague Sara Byfors told TT that this included following the “fundamental recommendation to stay home if you are sick, so you don’t spread Covid-19 or any other diseases”. 

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