Germany tightens COVID restrictions on bars, restaurants
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and leaders of the country's 16 states agreed on a new raft of rules and restrictions on Friday to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Scholz outlined new rules for restaurants and bars, while also shortening quarantine and self-isolation periods.
It was the first meeting in 2022 between Scholz and state leaders, coming at a time when the new German government is looking to ramp up vaccination and booster campaigns amid a surge driven by the omicron variant.
What are the new measures?
Stricter regulations will be enforced in bars and restaurants nationwide.
Access to restaurants will be limited to people who are fully vaccinated or considered recovered, who can additionally provide evidence of either a booster shot or a current negative COVID-19 test.
"It's a strict rule, but it's a necessary one that will help us better control infections [in the future] than is currently the case," Scholz said, defending the measure.
Scholz emphasized the central role that booster shots will play in the weeks and months to come, saying the "best protection against omicron is a booster vaccination."
German federal and state leaders also approved shortening required quarantine or self-isolation periods, which are currently set at 14 days.
In general, quarantine and self-isolation periods will be capped at 10 days. That period can be shortened to seven days if a person is symptom-free and receives a negative PCR test or a negative rapid test that is carried out by medical staff.
Under the new rules, people who have received a booster shot will no longer have to quarantine if they come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Shorter quarantine periods will also go into effect for "critical" workers, such as police, emergency and medical services.
The existing rule that private gatherings of vaccinated and recovered persons with a maximum of 10 persons are allowed will remain in place. Those who are not vaccinated will continue to be subject to strict contact restrictions.
What is the COVID situation in Germany?
Germany has a lower rate of vaccination compared to some European countries: 71.5% of the population is fully vaccinated and 40.9% have received a booster shot.
Scholz's government has set a vaccination goal of 80% and hopes to administer 30 million booster shots by the end of January.
On Thursday, the country recorded 64,340 new coronavirus infections, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The death toll grew by 443 to reach 113,368.
rs, lo/sms (AP, dpa, Reuters)