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Bundestag chief: Germany unprepared for second COVID winter

November 18, 2021

Bärbel Bas said that political parties were too busy campaigning this summer to make plans for a second pandemic winter. Germany is currently in the grips of its fourth, and most severe, wave of COVID-19 infections.

 Bärbel Bas
Bärbel Bas said the government was too busy campaigning for the September election to prepare for the fourth waveImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Bärbel Bas, the newly minted president of Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, said in a DW interview on Wednesday that Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had not adequately planned for a second pandemic winter.

Bas implied that Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), who have been ruling in a coalition with her own Social Democrats (SPD) since 2013, had spent the summer focusing solely on campaigning for Germany's September federal election.

"Maybe that is why the current caretaker government did not prepare for this winter," Bas said.

Although the CDU was defeated in September's vote, Merkel and her government remain in power in a caretaker capacity until a new alliance, likely between the SPD, the Greens, and the Free Democratic (FDP) parties, present a final coalition agreement.

"We are now seeing that the rate (of vaccination) among the population is not enough, and we are getting breakthrough infections," Bas said. "That means, we have to be very quick with boosters."

Germany needs 'unified signal'

Bas spoke as Germany faced its fourth, and most severe, wave of the pandemic with record-breaking case loads, with over 52,000 new cases on Wednesday and nearly 300 deaths.

As the likely new governing alliance prepared to present new measure to curb infection rates on Thursday, Bas called for clarity after weeks of uncertainty over whether they would take the reigns or let the country's state of emergency lapse.

Bas said the country needed "uniform resolutions that also enable the federal states to implement stricter measures," instead of the confusing and messy alternative — having vastly different rules in each of Germany's 16 federal states.

A glance at the country's vaccination map shows how uneven the vaccination campaign has been in the former East and West. Bas added that what Germany needed now was a "unified signal ... from all the states" all together, to "just get it done."

However, Bas refrained from calling for the imposition of strict penalities for those who willingly remain unvaccinated. In some countries, such as neighboring Austria, a so-called "lockdown for the unvaccinated" has been in place since the beginning of the week. Many municipalities in Germany have also begun banning the unvaccinated from indoor public spaces and upcoming Christmas Markets.

"No matter who knocks at the hospital door, they will receive treatment," Bas said. "All we can do is tell people that it is an act of solidarity to get vaccinated."

Germany's vaccination rate has been lagging behind much of the European Union with only 67.5% of the population fully immunized, compared to Portugal's 84%.

Vaccination chaos in Germany

Edited by Alistair Walsh