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COVID-19

German MPs to decide on general vaccine mandate ‘in March’

German politicians in the Bundestag will be given a key vote on whether to introduce a general vaccine mandate by the end of March, the leader of SPD parliamentary group has revealed.

Covid vaccination in Berlin
Dr Jakob Ernst gives a homeless man a Covid jab in the Hofbräu restaurant in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Setting out a timeline for the introduction of the mandate, Rolf Mützenich said the first orientation debate would take place in a fortnight, with the SPD presenting key points for a bill immediately afterwards.

These points will then be used as the basis for a group motion that will be put together by parliamentarians from a range of different parties. 

After that, parliament should not take longer than two months to reach a decision in the Bundestag, Mützenich said.

“We will have completed this in March,” he added. 

The announcement was made ahead of Olaf Scholz’ first parliamentary questions on Wednesday in which the SPD politician faced a grilling on the latest Covid-19 measures introduced by his coalition. 

Scholz has come under increasing pressure on the introduction of the general vaccine obligation, which had appeared to be sidelined in recent months.

READ ALSO: Scholz pushes mandatory jabs as resistance grows in Germany

Last year, the newly elected chancellor had argued for a general vaccination obligation to come into force in early February or early March. This could have superceded another occupation-specific vaccine mandate for healthcare and care workers that has already been approved by parliament and is set to apply from March 15th. 

According to the SPD timetable, however, any form of general mandate would likely come into force a few months later than planned. 

‘Only for over 50s’

Though several high-profile politicians have come out in favour of introducing a general vaccination mandate, the move remains a controversial one. 

Critics have claimed that a general vaccine mandate could contravene the right to bodily autonomy that’s enshrined in Germany’s constitution, though advocates say it is a necessary in order to bring the Covid pandemic to an end. 

On Tuesday, conservative health specialist Stephan Pilsinger announced that the CDU/CSU would put forward its own bill in parliament that would see a general vaccine mandate introduced – but only for the over-50s. 

“Because the majority of Covid patients in intensive care are over 50, we can effectively protect the health system with compulsory vaccination of people who are over 50, while still keeping the encroachment on societal freedom as low as possible,” Pilsinger told newspapers with the Funke media group.

READ MORE: German conservatives float mandatory vaccination for over-50s

Age restrictions are just one way that politicians could seek to limit or modify any legislation on the mandate.

Speaking to The Local in December, FDP health expert Dr Andrew Ullmann speculated that the mandate could also be implemented regionally or for a very limited period of time to mitigate the impact on civil liberties.

However, Scholz told parliament on Wednesday that he was keen to implement the mandate “for all adults”. 

“There is no decision that you make just for yourself, and that is why compulsory vaccination is also important,” he emphasised.

‘Less likely by the day’

When the bill is put to a vote in March, it will be hard to determine whether it will secure a majority because MPs will be permitted to vote against their own party line in what’s known as a vote of conscience.

So far, there is only one motion from the governing SPD, Greens and FDP coalition that rejects compulsory vaccination. This was tabled by MPs surrounding the vice president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Kubicki of the FDP, who is a longstanding opponent of Covid restrictions and compulsory jabs. 

However, some voices in the medical profession have also spoken out against the move.

Speaking to RND on Wednesday, the chairman of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Eugen Brysch, called on Scholz to drop the idea.

Eugen Brysch

Eugen Brysch, president of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, has called on Scholz to drop the vaccine mandate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Deutsche Stiftung Patientenschut | Handout

“The discussion about compulsory vaccination is currently overshadowing everything,” Brysch said. “But whether it will really come is becoming less likely by the day.

“Even if the Chancellor has declared the issue of compulsory vaccination a top priority, he should also have the guts to turn back. For far too long, more urgent issues have been postponed.”

Asked to take a position on the issue, the Ethics Council recommended broadening the vaccine mandate out to “significant sections of the population”, arguing that the move could help prevent overburdening hospitals.

Introducing such a measure to protect the general population is possible under German constitutional law, the panel concluded. 

READ ALSO: German Ethics Council recommends extending vaccine mandates

Member comments

  1. Scholz is a fool if he doesn’t take this opportunity now to properly address focused protection rather than issue a general vaccine mandate. There is so much evidence available from reliable sources he could do the right thing and enjoy the credit for it in addition to taking a more sensible and proactive approach to getting back to normality. This article written by Ehud Qimron (Head of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Tel Aviv University) says it all.
    https://brownstone.org/articles/ehud-qimrons-powerful-letter-to-the-israeli-ministry-of-health/
    Given Scholz effectively has a blank slate he could restore the fading credibility in government and their health policy by taking a more effective approach now.

    1. I dont think he cares. It stopped being about the science Jan 2020.
      I read 30% of the entire country has lost complete faith in the government. I would not be surprised if its no longer about corona, but the pass. Whom ever does exactly what the government want is granted their freedoms for a short time. Disobedience results in quasi-lockdown.
      All hail Adolf scholz.

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CULTURE

‘People liked the silence’: How Berlin’s club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Berlin's clubs are suffering from staff shortages, a lack of guests... and neighbours who've grown used to the silence, representatives for the scene say.

'People liked the silence': How Berlin's club scene is struggling after lockdowns

Some operators from Berlin’s club scene are bracing themselves for a difficult autumn. For months now, people have been allowed to dance again and life has returned to normal in the dark corners of Berlin’s famous nightlife scene.

But the clubs have far from recovered from the pandemic. They face staff shortages, rising prices and the prospect of a return to Covid restrictions in the autumn.

“We go into the autumn with huge fear, because the omens are totally unfavorable,” said association head Pamela Schobeß.

Spring and summer went anything but smoothly, she said. “There has been an oversupply of events. People aren’t going out as much, and some are still afraid to move around indoors.”

Money is also an issue. “A lot of people are afraid of rising energy prices.”

The industry lost workers during the pandemic and it’s hard to convince them to come back with the outlook for the autumn looking so gloomy, Schobeß says.

Her colleague Robin Schellenberg tells a similar story. People have switched to various other jobs and would even rather work on a supermarket checkout, which may have been considered less sexy in the past. Now, he says, some have learned to love not having to work nights.

READ ALSO: 

Schellenberg runs the Klunkerkranich, a small club on a parking garage deck in Neukölln. Because a number of things have become more expensive, they have also had to increase their admission prices.

His impression is that people are going out less often and are deciding more spontaneously. In addition, people in the neighborhood are now more sensitive to noise. “Many people found the silence very enticing,” he said.

Some in the industry wonder what will happen next. Will club admission have to become much more expensive? Will that exclude people who can no longer afford it? And what happens if Covid infection numbers rise sharply?

If masks become mandatory indoors in October, Schobeß believes that would be bad for the clubs. “Even if we don’t get shut down by the state, we’ll actually have to close down independently ourselves,” she reckons.

Masks take all the joy out of the experience, she says. People have drinks in their hands and are “jumping around and dancing” and then security guards have to tell them “please put your mask on.”

The federal government is considering whether states should be able to make masks mandatory indoors starting in October. Exceptions should be possible, such as at cultural and sporting events, for people who have been tested, recently vaccinated and recently recovered.

In the event that Covid numbers soar, the states could then be allowed to tighten the rules and eliminate all exemptions.

READ ALSO: German court declares techno to be music

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