Support for a general vaccine mandate continues to grow in Germany while the number of new cases continues to climb, putting strain on the country's health care system.
Incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Wednesday his coalition was considering making vaccines mandatory for certain key workers but stopped short of a blanket obligation.
Germany's total coronavirus death toll passed 100,000 on Thursday. At the same time, some hospitals are at the point of being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients.
Public support for the general vaccine mandate has grown, reaching 69% in favor according to a recent YouGov poll, with only 23% saying they opposed such a move.
Currently, just 68.1% of the German population is fully vaccinated, with the share falling to just 57.8% in the eastern state of Saxony, the worst-hit at present. The seven-day incidence rate surpassed 1,000 cases per 100,000 people per week for the first time on Thursday.
Some leading lawmakers, such as the state premiers of Hesse and Baden-Württemberg as well as the mayor of Berlin, have also voiced their support for making vaccines mandatory for all.
However, epidemiologist Dr. Tobias Kurth, from Berlin's Charite Hospital, told DW that increasing vaccinations is not enough and that "there is no other option than a lockdown."
He noted that making vaccination obligatory would not provide the immediate-term relief required by the health sector, only bearing fruit with a delay.
Kurth also said the political uncertainty since the German election in September hasn't helped as "the political vacuum for not taking decisions" has come at just the wrong time.
Kurth's words come as outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel lent her support for renewed "contact restrictions." She described Thursday as a "sad day" as Germany's COVID-19 death toll passed the 100,000 mark.
The European Medicines Agency, the EU's regulator for medicinal products, on Thursday approved the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, also known as Comirnaty, for children aged 5-11. It's the first vaccine approved for children under 12 in the EU.
The Czech Republic has declared a state of emergency for 30 days due to a sudden increase in infections. The government has been considering a ban on large public events and limiting opening hours of restaurants and bars, as opposed to a complete lockdown.
The Italian government has passed a decree requiring proof of vaccination or recovery for access to many parts of public life. The restrictions for the unvaccinated will come into effect on December 6 and last until January 15.
A vaccine mandate will also apply for an array of front-line workers including police, teachers and soldiers from December 15 — such a rule already exists for health care workers.
The Rose Monday carnival procession in the German city of Düsseldorf has been postponed until May 8 due to the pandemic. It was due to take place at the carnival's crescendo at the end of February.
German football giants Bayern Munich have confirmed that national team star Joshua Kimmich had tested positive for COVID-19. Kimmich had been in the spotlight for weeks since saying after a match against Hoffenheim that he had not yet been vaccinated. The Bavarian club said Kimmich was in isolation.
Bayern player Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting also tested positive prior to Kimmich. Bayern sent several players into isolation at the weekend following a positive case in a person "close to the first team;" Kimmich was already quarantined at that point after a personal contact had tested positive.
Canada has begun vaccinating children aged between 5 and 11 against COVID-19, following in the footsteps of the United States and Israel.
ab, jsi/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)