BERLIN: A debate has flared in Germany over whether people who have not yet been vaccinated against the coronavirus should face restrictions. The wrangling comes as the highly transmissible Delta variant is pushing case numbers up and Germany's vaccination campaign shows signs of flagging.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Helge Braun, said in an interview published on Sunday that if Germany is hit by a harsh fourth wave in the coming months, people who have yet to be vaccinated might find themselves blocked from bars and other social establishments. "If we have a high rate of infection despite our testing procedures then the unvaccinated will have to reduce their contacts," Braun told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
"That can mean that certain options like restaurants, cinemas and visits to stadiums, even for unvaccinated people who have been tested, would no longer be possible, because the risk to everyone else is too high."
But Armin Laschet, the German centre-right's candidate to replace Merkel in September's national elections, pushed back. Laschet, like Merkel and Braun, is a member of the Christian Democrats (CDU). In response to Braun, Laschet spoke out against mandatory vaccination and restrictions for unvaccinated people.
"I do not believe in compulsory vaccination and I do not believe in indirectly putting pressure on people to get vaccinated," he told broadcaster ZDF. The priority now must be to convince as many citizens as possible to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Laschet said.
But he stressed that the principle that one must either be vaccinated, tested or recovered in order to do certain things is correct. Braun also received criticism from outside his party, with the centre-left Social Democrats' parliamentary group leader, Rolf Muetzenich, telling Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that "we will not change the vaccination stance of individuals with threats."
Braun, who in addition to being one of Merkel's closest advisors is also a medical doctor, said that, so long as the vaccines currently in use remain effective against the Delta variant of the coronavirus, a full lockdown should be unnecessary.
He also used the interview to urge German residents to get vaccinated, arguing that vaccines are about 90-per-cent effective in stopping serious illness "and the vaccinated are definitely going to have more freedoms than the unvaccinated."
About 60 per cent of Germany's population has received at least one vaccine jab, but two are required to be considered fully vaccinated for most available vaccines. Just less than 50 per cent are considered fully vaccinated.
Despite those numbers, the case count is creeping back up after hitting a recent low earlier this month. The seven-day incidence rate has been rising for more than two weeks and now stands at 13.8 cases per 100,000 residents.-dpa