Germany debates COVID-19 vaccine mandate, easing restrictions

BERLIN (AP): Lawmakers in Germany are debating a possible COVID-19 vaccine mandate as the country hit a new record for the number of newly confirmed cases Thursday. Still, some government officials are championing an easing of restrictions.

The country’s disease control agency reported 294,931 new cases in the past 24 hours. The Robert Koch Institute said there have been a further 278 COVID-related deaths, taking the toll since the start of the pandemic to 126,420.

A final decision on an initial proposal to make vaccinations compulsory for all adults in Germany isn’t expected for several weeks. Opponents of this measure have suggested mandatory vaccination only for people over 50, while others reject the idea altogether.

Despite the infection rate being far higher than in many neighboring countries, government officials have defended plans to let some of the Germany’s restrictions expire on Sunday.

“It’s a step toward normality and I say that’s what we need,” Finance Minister Christian Lindner told public broadcaster ARD.

The government wants to let Germany’s 16 states decide for themselves where targeted restrictions are required, rather than impose nationwide rules.

Germany’s powerful industry lobby group BDI warned against a “generous” lifting of measures, saying it would be irresponsible in light of the spike in infections.