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Coronavirus: German parliament votes to lift restrictions

March 19, 2022

The vote to end restrictions comes despite a surge in cases and a slowing vaccination rate. Meanwhile, China reported its first deaths in more than a year. Follow DW for the latest.

A poster with a mask requirement in Mosbach, Germany
Mask requirements could go away in Germany, except in hospitals and public transitImage: Firn/Zoonar/picture alliance

A day before Germany officially lifts most of its measures introduced to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccination rate has slowed sharply, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said Saturday.

Around 60,000 doses were administered on Friday, compared to 94,334 a week ago and 109,409 two weeks ago, RKI data showed.

Some 75.8% of the population (at least 63.1 million people) are double vaccinated, or the equivalent. Some 58.2% have also received a booster shot.

That compares with more than 90% vaccination rates in several other EU countries.

Despite a government U-turn on plans for mandatory vaccinations, the head of the German Retail Association (HDE) on Saturday urged ministers to reconsider.

"It is still possible to prevent us from being faced with significant restrictions with dramatic consequences again in a few months' time," HDE managing director Stefan Genth said.

Germany in coronavirus turmoil

The German parliament on Friday voted to abolish nationwide restrictions, despite persistently high infection rates.

The legislation would allow for the removal of nationwide mask requirements everywhere, except in facilities where vulnerable people are housed. Federal states would also still be able to require face masks on public transport. 

The new rules were expected to take effect from Sunday, but due to opposition from the leaders of Germany's 16 states, a transitional period will allow them to retain the measures until April 2.

Meanwhile, Germany's COVID incidence rate — cases per 100,000 people during a one-week period — reached a record high of 1,735 on Saturday, according to RKI.

Here are the latest major developments on coronavirus from around the world:


China on Saturday recorded the first COVID-related deaths in more than a year, as the country faces an omicron-driven surge. Health authorities reported two deaths, both in the northeastern Jilin province.

It brings China's total death toll to 4,638. Jilin province has now instituted a travel ban, with people needing police permission to travel across borders.

COVID outbreaks in China geographically very concentrated: Professor Ben Cowling

Myanmar will lift its two-year ban on foreign tourists, allowing international passenger flights to resume starting April 17.

The National Central Committee on Prevention, Control, and Treatment of Coronavirus Disease announced the decision citing falling COVID infections.

The decision was made "in order to improve the tourism business sector, and in order to have a smooth trip for visitors who come to visit Myanmar."

Hong Kong's COVID infections exceeded the one-million mark after health officials confirmed 20,079 new cases on Friday. Nearly 97% of those came from the current wave, which began in December.

The total number of deaths in the region was 5,401, of which nearly 5,200 people have died since February 9.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam plans to review COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, just days after acknowledging that many financial
institutions were "losing patience" with coronavirus policies in the financial hub.

Poland: Vaccinated and ostracized


Dutch prosecutors said that a well-known anti-COVID activist who protested against government measures in the Netherlands will remain in custody for two more weeks on charges of incitement.

Willem Engel was taken into custody on Wednesday in Rotterdam after more than 22,000 people signed a complaint against him.

The 45-year-old has become one of the leading faces of the Dutch anti-vaccine movement.

France saw its rate of infection grow 25% in the last week, health authorities said. It dropped most of its coronavirus restrictions on Monday. Admission rates at hospitals, however, remain stable.

Italy reported 74,024 new cases on Saturday, down from 76,250 the day before, the health ministry said. Meanwhile, the number of deaths nearly halved to 85 from 165.

The country's total registered 157,692 deaths are the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world.

adi/jcg (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)

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