Germany will introduce tighter COVID-19 curbs on unvaccinated citizens, said Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday after holding a crisis meeting amid a surge in infections.
In regions where there are more than three COVID-19 patients in hospital per 100,000 inhabitants, only the vaccinated and those who have recovered from the virus will be able to access public places such as restaurants or concert halls.
Most regions in the country are currently above that threshold.
Under the new rules, unvaccinated people — even if they tested negative for COVID-19 — will see their access to many public venues restricted.
The announcement comes after Germany’s lower house of parliament the Bundestag voted on Thursday in favour of new restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases. The plans need to be approved by the upper house, the Bundesrat.
They include new restrictions for the workplace and public transport. People will need to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to gain access.
The measures were proposed by the three parties expected to form the next coalition: the Social Democrats (SPD), the liberals and the greens.
Earlier, health authorities issued a stark warning as 65,371 new cases were reported in a single day, confirming an upward trend experts have been warning about for weeks.
“We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,” said Lothar Wieler, director of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s disease control agency. “We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.”
He called for a significant increase in vaccination rates to well above 75%, from 67.7% at present. In some German regions rates are as low as 57.6%.
The fourth wave of COVID-19 is hitting Germany with “full force”, Angela Merkel said on Wednesday, describing the pandemic as “dramatic” at a meeting with German city leaders. She was due to meet state leaders on Thursday.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn has called on doctors not to be too strict about waiting at least six months before giving patients vaccine booster shots.
The appeals come days after Brandenburg, which includes Berlin, became the latest of several of the country’s federal states to ban unvaccinated people — even if they tested negative for COVID-19 — from restaurants, museums and other public venues.