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COVID: Bavaria suspends vaccine mandate for nursing staff

February 7, 2022

The German state will not impose the vaccine mandate for professional caregivers set to go into force nationwide in mid-March, and is mulling loosening several other coronavirus curbs.

Two nursing staff members in an intensive care unit
Bavaria's vaccine mandate is being suspended indefinitelyImage: Peter Kneffel/picture alliance/dpa

The southern German state of Bavaria will not enforce compulsory vaccination against COVID-19 for nursing staff in instutitions such as hospitals and care homes from mid-March as originally planned, the state's premier, Markus Söder, said on Monday.

Söder said he was in favor of being "very generous" in the matter. He declined to say how many months the suspension would last.

This comes as Bavaria plans to loosen more anti-pandemic measures. The state government says that the health care system was currently in no danger of being overwhelmed in the current wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite a high infection rate.

Why is the mandate being suspended?

Although Söder said he was in favor of a universal vaccine mandate in Germany, he said that he was now skeptical about compulsory vaccination just for those working in the health care sector.

"The vaccine mandate for [health care] insitutions that was to come from March 15 is no longer an effective means to accompany, curb or stop the current omicron wave," he said.

Söder said that people might leave their health care jobs, leading to increased strain and an aggravated situation in the sector.

"It only leads to problems; it is unfortunately no solution," he said.

Criticism of Bavaria's move came from Greens co-leader-designate Ricarda Lang, who said that her party — part of Germany's current ruling coalition — was in favor of the vaccine mandate being imposed as planned. She said the mandate aimed to protect groups that were particularly at risk, such as elderly people in care homes.

What other restrictions is Bavaria loosening?

Restaurants, which currently have to close by 10 p.m., will be allowed to choose their opening hours. However, guests will still need to show proof that they have been vaccinated or have recovered from an infection — the so-called 2G rule (German: "Geimpft" or "Genesen").

The maximum attendance at cultural events is to be raised to 75%, while sports stadiums will be allowed to be filled to 50% capacity if that does not exceed 15,000 spectators. In both cases, the 2G rule will apply, and people will be required to wear masks — "a very, very adequate protection," Söder said.

Hairdressers, manicure salons and other establishments providing services where close physical contact is required will again be able to serve customers who have only a negative COVID test.

tj/rt (AFP, dpa)

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