Berlin/Düsseldorf More than one-fifth of Germany's citizens have now been vaccinated - and the number is growing fast. The federal and state governments have now discussed what this means for Corona restrictions. Questions and answers.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers met for the first time in several weeks in a shift to combat the Corona pandemic. Instead of discussing individual measures, however, this time the focus was almost exclusively on the vaccination campaign and how there can be a return for vaccinated people to exercise their basic rights.
■ What is planned for vaccinated people?
Those who have already recovered from a Corona infection or have received full vaccination protection should no longer have to present a negative Corona test when shopping or visiting the hairdresser, for example, Merkel said. The mandatory quarantine after entering the country from abroad should then also be eliminated, she added. "The ultimate societal goal is to quickly restore to all people all life opportunities, meaning basic rights, and all uses of their known life opportunities," Merkel said. The federal and state governments did not decide Monday what other restrictions fully vaccinated and recovered people should be exempt from. That is to be regulated by a legal ordinance that the federal government wants to get underway.
■ What was the mood like after the last MPK was such a flop?
Merkel warned her CDU presidium ahead of time. This could become an "accusation summit" in view of the SPD-led states' requests to speak, Merkel was quoted by participants in the meeting as saying. In terms of content, too, Angela Merkel has already let some of her positions be known. For example, she warned against placing vaccinated and tested persons on an equal footing in the discussion about the return of civil liberties. What applies to the fully vaccinated cannot apply to the tested, Merkel said. The safety of vaccination is much more robust than the safety of testing, she said.
Then, in the meeting itself, CSU leader Markus Söder repeated his call for vaccination prioritization to be lifted. He called for more speed and flexibility in Corona vaccinations in Germany. "Where we vaccinate more freely, we are very efficient," the CSU leader said, according to participants. In the current phase of the pandemic, he said, two issues are important: "How can we increase the speed of vaccination?" and "How can we give back basic rights?" Söder stressed that he favors that people with full vaccination protection should also have to fulfill fewer Corona requirements: "Those who have been vaccinated twice should also get more freedoms."
Merkel and German Health Minister Jens Spahn argued against this. People in the third prioritization group, including teachers, had already waited long enough. There is still not enough vaccine for everyone, he said. Thuringia's Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow tried to lighten the mood somewhat. Perhaps, he said, journalists should also be included in the third prioritization group. They might then be in a better mood.
After the summit, Söder said it had been a "hopeful MPC" after the previous rounds had mostly been about restrictions rather than loosening. The message: We can get along again, especially if the messages are more cheerful.
■ What do courts say about priority for vaccinated?
Courts do not give priority to vaccinated people. For example, the Greifswald Administrative Court ruled that a landlord in Usedom may continue (not) to not rent to vaccinated persons. The Corona Ordinance of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania prohibits owners of vacation apartments from accommodating guests. Vaccination limits the transmissibility of the coronavirus, but even vaccinated and recovered people could continue to transmit the virus, the court spokesman explained. Scientists are also still debating the risk of transmission despite vaccination.
■ What's next for the vaccination campaign?
Starting in June, prioritization for vaccinations will be lifted. "That doesn't mean that everyone can then be vaccinated immediately. But then everyone can apply for a vaccination appointment, and they will be given according to supply," Merkel said. However, how to distribute between vaccination centers and doctors' offices was a point of contention at the vaccination summit. Health ministers would rather serve the vaccination centers, while doctors insist on more vaccine for the practices.
"More vaccine needs to go where it belongs - in doctors' offices," said Frank Bergmann, head of the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KV) in North Rhine. It has been agreed between the federal and state governments that vaccination centers will receive 2.25 million vaccine doses per week in May and June (Biontech, Moderna, Astrazeneca). Deliveries to practices, on the other hand, are fluctuating: This week they will receive two million doses, next week three million. However, Johnson & Johnson's supply is already down for the first week of May and is expected to be replenished by more Astrazeneca doses.
■ What about company physicians?
They are to be included starting in June. The Confederation of German Employers' Associations (BDA) called on the federal government to provide enough vaccine. Companies would have good access and could provide a voluntary vaccination offer for the more than 31 million employees, said BDA President Rainer Dulger.
VACCINATION PASSPORT AS DOOR OPENER
EU prepares digital code
Greece, Croatia and quite a few others have already jumped ahead. Those who have full vaccination protection or have survived a Covid 19 infection are already allowed to enter the country without testing and quarantine and to romp on the beaches. Most others are still waiting - especially for the green vaccination certificate that the EU has been preparing for weeks. Strictly speaking, this is not a passport, nor is it a replacement for the yellow booklet that every citizen has and which documents all of their vaccinations.
Rather, the Union is working on a forgery-proof QR code that stores only a few pieces of information in the associated app: The holder's name, vaccine and vaccination date plus a digital signature. That's enough. Anyone who can show this code on their cell phone, pad or printed out on paper will initially have their borders within the Union reopened. Border officials, airlines, hotels, restaurants and other providers will then be able to scan the person's health status without violating data protection standards. The EU Commission states June 1, 2021, as the start date, while others speak of the end of this month.
There is a reason for this slight inaccuracy: Brussels knows that it is not just a matter of restoring the rights of people with full vaccination protection. The principle of fairness must also be observed, EU circles repeatedly emphasize. This means that the vaccination certificate can only come after everyone has had the chance to receive a vaccination. Therefore, from the point of view of the EU authorities, this data closes a circle.
And one more question is currently open: How long does a vaccination certificate remain valid? So far, Brussels is assuming around six months. ddw
Original text: Jan Drebes, Antje Höning and Kerstin Münstermann
Translation: Mareike Graepel