Olaf Scholz, who is appointed to replace Angela Merkel as German Chancellor next week, wants Covid vaccinations to become mandatory, possibly by the end of February, he said on Tuesday in interviews with the media.
While Mr Scholz and other mainstream politicians in Germany have long rejected the idea of forcing people to shoot, he told tabloid Bild that the country’s high infection rates justified the move.
“You cannot ruthlessly look at the situation as it is right now,” he reportedly said. “If we had a higher vaccination rate, we would have a different situation. “
Mr Scholz said he would free lawmakers in his coalition from having to vote with their parties when a bill on the issue is submitted to the German parliament, allowing them to vote according to their conscience on such an important issue.
On Tuesday, the country’s highest court ruled that the government had acted in accordance with the Constitution by ordering the lockdown and closure of schools earlier this year. The move that was seen as pivotal in allowing the government to impose more restrictions on public life as it tries to tackle an emergency hike.
As Europe faces a sharp rise in the coronavirus, Austria last month became the first European country and the first Western democracy to demand vaccination against Covid for all adults. Although recent polls have shown Germans to accept the idea of a national vaccination mandate, in a poll in late October 65% of unvaccinated respondents said they would not get vaccinated under any circumstances.
Germany has a daily average of nearly 60,000 new reported cases, a 42% increase from two weeks ago, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 300 people die from the disease each day, a 54% increase from two weeks ago.
According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 68% of the German population is fully vaccinated, which is higher than the European Union average, but lower than that of some large European countries like France, Great Britain and Spain. New laws restricting access to public transport and other places for unvaccinated people have attracted more people to be vaccinated – last week nearly 900,000 doses were given in a single day, the most large numbers since July.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and Mr Scholz agreed on Tuesday that as part of a new national vaccination campaign, 30 million additional doses would be administered by Christmas.
On Wednesday, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine for young children will be delivered to customers in the European Union starting December 13.