(Bloomberg) -- Germany is poised to clamp down on people who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 and drastically curtail social contacts to ease pressure on increasingly stretched hospitals.
In one of her final acts as chancellor, Angela Merkel will hold talks with Germany’s 16 regional premiers later on Thursday at which they’re expected to agree on new curbs including allowing only people who are vaccinated or recovered into restaurants, theaters and non-essential stores.
According to a draft agreement prepared by Merkel’s office, there will also be tighter contact restrictions for non-vaccinated people, nightclubs will be closed in places with high infection rates and there will be strict limits on the number of spectators at large public events.
“The important thing is that this is virtually a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” outgoing Health Minister Jens Spahn said Thursday in an interview with ZDF television. “The more than 12 million adults who aren’t inoculated is what is creating a challenge for the health system.”
Merkel and Olaf Scholz, the current vice chancellor who is set to be sworn in next week to replace her, will lead Thursday’s discussions from 11 a.m. in Berlin and will hold a press conference after to announce the new measures.
Officials have been forced to act to try to check a fourth wave of the virus sweeping across the country and protect the health system from collapse.
The head of the DIVI intensive-care medicine lobby warned Wednesday that the number of Covid patients in ICUs will reach 6,000 by Christmas, exceeding the peak during the second wave of the pandemic last winter.
The chancellery draft also includes a proposal to make Covid shots mandatory for people working in places such as hospitals and care homes. Authorities aim to speed up vaccinations and are targeting as many as 30 million shots by Christmas, including boosters.
Officials want to significantly expand the pool of people who can administer jabs, including using qualified workers in drug stores and care facilities.
Scholz and Merkel have both come out in favor of a vaccine mandate for all adults, and the Bundestag will vote on the measures before the end of the year.
Some regions with high infection rates like Bavaria and Saxony have already tightened restrictions and Spahn said the measures appeared to be having a positive effect.
“Contacts must be reduced,” Spahn said. “Everyone of us can make a difference in our day-to-day lives and we also need the state to act as well.”
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