The so-called “2G” rule – allowing in only the vaccinated and the recovered – will be introduced in areas with a hospitalisation rate of more than three Covid patients per 100,000 people, she said, and will apply to large events as well as culture and sports facilities.
Further restrictions will be put in place when the hospitalisation rate increases.
“We need to quickly put a brake on the exponential rise” in cases and intensive care bed occupancy, Merkel added, calling the situation “highly dramatic”.
“With the current dynamics, we are running into a very, very difficult situation, especially for all the people who work in hospitals and especially in intensive care.”
The German government and states also agreed to require healthcare workers and employees in care homes to get vaccinated against coronavirus
“We must protect the most vulnerable groups,” state leaders and the government said in a policy statement, adding that “it is necessary for employees” in institutions like hospitals or elderly and care homes, and those going door-to-door to provide care “be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus”.
After a strong push in the spring, Germany’s inoculation rate had stagnated over the summer to hover at just under 70 percent.
The outgoing chancellor urged more Germans to get vaccinated, saying bluntly that “many measures that now have to be taken would not have been necessary if we had more vaccinated people”.
“We need a really big effort here,” Merkel added.
At the joint meeting, Merkel said, they had “agreed on a very large catalogue of measures” to counter the fourth wave.
SPD candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was at the crunch talks warned of difficult winter months ahead.
“We will see drastic measures that have not been seen before,” he said.
Scholz urged anyone who hasn’t been jabbed to get vaccinated, saying: “Everyone should make an effort.”
Despite infections soaring in recent weeks, politicians have been accused of inaction and of focusing their attention instead on negotiations to form Germany’s next government after elections in September.