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Maas suggests lockdown relaxation for vaccinated people

January 17, 2021

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas' remarks contrast with the rest of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet. Officials oppose easing restrictions for those who have been vaccinated, fearing it will lead to inequalities in society.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas
German Foreign Minister Heiko MaasImage: Hannibal Hanschke/dpa/Reuters Images Europe/Pool/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that COVID-19 restrictions must be eased for citizens who have already been vaccinated against the virus.

"Vaccinated people should be able to exercise their basic rights again," he said, adding that they should be able to go to restaurants and cinemas.

"If there are only vaccinated people in a restaurant or a cinema, they can no longer endanger each other," Maas told the newspaper.

Maas' demand contrasts with measures approved by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD). The federal cabinet is opposed to relaxing restrictions for those who have received the German-American BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 jab.

Social inequality

Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has previously warned that relaxing restrictions for vaccinated people could cause a split in society.

"Yes, it will lead to inequalities in a transitional period, but as long as there is an objective reason, it is constitutionally justifiable," Maas, an SPD politician, argued.

Germany – disappointing progress

Maas added that his suggestion is not about privileges. "A vaccinated person does not take away a ventilator from anyone. This means that at least one of the main reasons for restricting basic rights is no longer applicable."

Germany has extended its lockdown measures to curb the coronavirus spread to at least until the end of January. Chancellor Merkel and state premiers are set to discuss further restrictions to contain the pandemic on Tuesday. Among other things, a curfew and an obligation to work from home would be discussed.

Germany has so far recorded 2,019,636 COVID-19 cases and 45,974 related deaths, according to data from Germany's national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Despite strict lockdown measures, the number of coronavirus cases remain high in the country. Authorities began a vaccination drive earlier this month.

shs/rs (Reuters, AFP, dpa)