There are growing calls within Germany to follow the lead of neighbouring Austria and mandate vaccines for the Chinese coronavirus.
On Friday, German Health Minister Jens Spahn declared that the country is facing a “national emergency” due to the rapidly rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The health minister went on to say that Germany is in a “situation where we can’t rule anything out”, public broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported.
Cases have jumped up by over 60 per cent over the past two weeks, with 52,970 new cases reported on Friday, following the pandemic high of over 65,000 cases set the day before.
Under Germany’s federal government system, which like the United States provides significant leeway for individual states to make up their own pandemic policies, some states have already begun enacting lockdown restrictions.
Others are calling for more radical steps, including making vaccines mandatory, as has already been announced by the government of neighbouring Austria, which said that jabs will become required by February, with unvaccinated people facing fines and potential prison time.
In an opinion article for the public broadcaster, DW’s Sabine Kinkartz wrote: “When will lawmakers finally understand that appealing to the unvaccinated and urging everyone to act responsibly is not enough? There is only one solution to this mess: Making vaccinations mandatory for everyone.”
This sentiment was backed up by Green Party politician and doctor Paula Piechotta, who claimed that making vaccines required would be less disruptive than the government introducing another national lockdown.
“If we can’t achieve sufficient vaccination rates on a non-mandatory basis, we have to talk about vaccine mandates, especially for people who work in vulnerable settings like nursing homes and hospitals,” the Green lawmaker said.
The prime minister of the state of Bavaria and the leader of the influential Christian Social Union, Markus Söder said on Friday that he believed that Germany “will not be able to avoid compulsory vaccination”.
Söder said that if the government fails to require people to take the jab, then there will be “an endless loop with this corona crap”.
On Monday, the leader of the Social Democrats (SPD) and the likely successor to Angela Merkel as next chancellor of Germany, Olaf Sholz, said that mandatory vaccines should be considered, saying: “I think it’s right that we have started a discussion about whether this should be done.”
While Merkel herself has stopped short of calling for mandatory vaccines, she urged her countrymen to get jabbed earlier this month, saying that getting vaccinated is the “duty” of German citizens.
There has been some pushback against the idea, however, with Foreign Minister Heiko Maas saying on Friday that there “won’t be” any vaccine mandates introduced. Maas said that the government doesn’t view them as necessary and that a mandate may be difficult to pass constitutional muster.
Anna Schneider of the Die Welt newspaper said in comments reported by The Telegraph that the slogan “my body, my choice” should not just apply to “abortion and for euthanasia, but for vaccines too”.
“Freedom does not need justification, its restriction does,” she continued.
The vaccine mandate push in Germany comes as protests were staged across Europe over the weekend, with an estimated 38,000 people flooding the streets of Vienna in opposition to the government’s vaccine mandate proposal.