Germany

Unvaccinated Set to Be Banned from Berlin Christmas Market

German officials have given the green light to prohibit the unvaccinated public from attending the Berlin Christmas Market. Those looking to gain access will have to provide proof that they are double-jabbed or have recovered from Covid, with the only exception being children under the age of 12, who have not been offered the vaccination. Although venues can set their own rules, thereby permitting the unvaccinated to enter (albeit with a negative Covid test), a number of Berlin Christmas Markets have already pledged to bar the unvaccinated from the premises. The MailOnline has the story.

Under a strict ‘2G’ model, those over the age of 12 must be double vaccinated or recovered from the virus and would be denied entry even if they have a negative Covid test, reports German newspaper Tagesspiegel.  

But organisers of the markets, which return on November 22nd would be able to opt for a less strict ‘3G’ model which would allow unvaccinated people to attend – but only if they show proof of a negative test.

Yet with the more lenient rules, visitors to the Christmas markets in Berlin must wear face masks and social distancing will be enforced. 

A number of the German capital’s famous Christmas markets – including the WeihnachtsZauber market at Gendarmenmarkt – have confirmed that only vaccinated people over the age of 12, or those who have recovered from Covid, will be allowed entry, reports the Local

The only exception to the rules is for children under the age of 12, who are currently unable to get vaccinated. But the youngsters will still have to show a negatives [sic] test, although children under the age of six will not have to provide proof.   

The move is the latest example of countries in Europe banning unvaccinated people from public events. 

Last week, Austria’s Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that the country is considering a Covid lockdown which would only restrict those who are not fully jabbed. 

Schallenberg announced that if the number of Covid patients in intensive-care units reaches 500, or 25% of the country’s total ICU capacity, entrance into businesses such as restaurants and hotels will be limited to those who are vaccinated or recovered from the virus.    

If the number reaches 600, or one-third of total ICU capacity, the Government plans to impose restrictions on unvaccinated people. In this case, they would only be allowed to leave their homes for specific reasons. Currently, the number of Covid patients in ICUs stands at 220. 

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the French Government announced it would be extending the requirement for a ‘health pass’ for people to access restaurants, bars, cinemas, museums and tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower. 

The pass means that only those who are fully vaccinated, recovered from the virus in the last six months, or a negative test result in the past 48 hours are allowed to visit the public venues or access long-distance transport.

The Government also announced that for those who are unvaccinated, Covid tests will no longer be free and those who have not been jabbed will have to pay for a test each time they want to travel to the venues.

Worth reading in full.

Germany Scraps Free Covid LFTs, Pushing Unvaccinated into Getting Jabbed

Germans who have not been vaccinated against Covid (or have not recently recovered from the virus) must now pay for tests in order to attend public gatherings, with free lateral flow tests having been scrapped by the Government. Added financial pressure is expected to nudge those who have decided not to get vaccinated into abandoning their positions. The Guardian has the story.

Public gatherings across Germany have since August 23rd been allowed to go ahead if they follow the so-called “3G” rule (short for geimpft, genesen oder getestet), meaning participants have to show proof of either vaccination, a recent recovery from the virus, or an up-to-date test result.

A large-scale infrastructure offering free Government-subsidised rapid antigen tests that sprung up across Germany over the spring and summer made testing part of people’s everyday routine while vaccinations were still hard to come by.

But as of October 11th the Government says it can no longer justify paying for free tests out of the public purse since all residents over the age of 12 can now get the jab if they want to.

The hope is that the cost and inconvenience of paying for coronavirus tests will help to boost Germany’s stagnating vaccination rate, a problem politicians did little to address while the country was locked in election campaign mode.

Similar plans are being drawn up in England which could push the unvaccinated to get jabbed if a similar vaccine passport scheme is introduced later this year.

Worth reading in full.

Hamburg Businesses to Be Given ‘Choice’ to Bar Unvaccinated Residents

Hamburg has become the first German city to tell a range of venues, including restaurants, clubs and, according to some reports, religious institutions, that they are permitted to bar unvaccinated residents. Mandates will also apply to workers within these organisations. Those that decide not to introduce vaccine passes will be forced to continue enforcing other restrictive policies. The Local has the story.

German states on Monday moved to a uniform Covid health pass system which allows entry to many public spaces, such as indoor dining, only to people who’ve been vaccinated, have recovered from Covid or have been tested against Covid. It’s known as the ‘3G model’ in Germany.

But on Tuesday, Hamburg announced it will introduce a ‘2G option model’ for event organisers and business owners – effectively banning unvaccinated people.

It means venue and event bosses will be allowed to offer their services and allow entry only to people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid within the last six months. Those who are eligible for vaccination but haven’t got it will not be allowed to enter. 

Businesses have to let the city know if they plan to use the 2G entry system. 

The obligation to provide proof also applies to employees working on the premises in question, said the Senate. 

Under 2G, businesses will not need the same hygiene regulations. It will allow bosses, for instance, to admit more guests or offer a free choice of seating without mandatory spacing requirements. However, masks will remain compulsory in all indoor settings.

The 2G option will be launched on Saturday. Organisers can also opt for the 3G model – but if they do, they will have to follow previous Covid restrictions, such as caps on the amount of people who can attend. 

The 2G or 3G option is aimed at theatres, cinemas, trade fair operators, restaurants, hotels, swimming pools and fitness studios, among other businesses.

Organisers of sporting events with visitors, public festivals or educational courses should also be able to exclude unvaccinated people if they want to, said the Hamburg Senate.

The Senate said operators will face heavy fines if they do not check for proof of vaccination or recovery (or a negative test if it’s a 3G event).

Worth reading in full.

Italy, Austria and Germany Could Be Added to “Green List” This Week

Reports suggest that more countries could be added to the Government’s “Green List” later this week, which would allow unvaccinated Brits to holiday abroad without needing to quarantine when back in the U.K. The MailOnline has the story.

Italy, Austria and Germany are among the potential destinations that appear to pose a low enough risk to be downgraded in a review due on Thursday.

The move could make life easier for Brits who are desperate to get away, but have yet to receive both doses. 

People who are double-jabbed are due to be exempted from having to self-isolate on return to “Amber List” countries from “Freedom Day” next Monday.

But they will have to prove they are fully vaccinated, and there fears of huge delays as the rules are eased. …

Meanwhile, Britons will still need to consider the restrictions that are being imposed by other countries – with many trying to stop the Delta – or Indian – variant being imported from the U.K. …

Experts have predicted that a dozen more countries could be added to the Green List – where vaccine status is not an issue for the restrictions in England – in a review on Thursday. 

Former BA strategist Robert Boyle told the Telegraph that Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Canada, Austria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Taiwan now meet the criteria for the loosest controls.

That would bring the total on the Green List to 39, with any changes expected to take effect from next week. …

Under the new arrangements, travellers will still be required to fill out a passenger locator form with details of their home address.

They will also need to confirm they have booked a day two PCR coronavirus test. Border Force agents must insect [sic] the documents for passengers at passport control. However, airlines will be responsible for checking vaccination status.

Border officers have warned that the huge rise in bookings since the loosening was announced will mean long queues.

Before Covid, three-quarters of people who passed through the U.K.’s border did not require any documentation checks other than verifying that their identity matched their passport.

Lucy Moreton, Professional Officer for the ISU Immigration Union, representing frontline border staff, told the Times: “This decision will open up foreign travel to a large number of new travellers. But we are not set up to cope with that sort of demand. 

“There is no way that the border can maintain that level of checks as the number of travellers increase.

“We’ve got away with it so far because the number of travellers are so low. But even at this point we’re seeing queues of one to two hours. 

“From the number of bookings we’ve seen already, we’ll easily see three, four-hour queues when people start returning from their holidays.”

Worth reading in full.

Countries Are Using Money and Beer to Incentivise Covid Vaccination

In light of the persistent vaccine hesitancy among some people, governments around the world are considering a range of incentives to induce people go get jabbed (beyond, that is, preventing the unvaccinated from living a normal life).

An Australian pub has received backing from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to give vaccinated punters free pints, despite the Therapeutic Goods Administration previously turning these plans down due to rules about offering alcohol as an incentive to receive medicines. “It’s a sensible rule,” said Morrison. “But in these circumstances, the national interest is to get vaccinated.”

Free beer has also been suggested as an incentive for vaccination in America, where President Joe Biden said last month: “That’s right, get a shot, have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus.”

This, however, is all child’s play compared to the latest scheme being considered in Germany. Some of the country’s economists have urged the Government to give those who are unsure about being vaccinated €300 (£258) cash if they get ‘jabbed’! The Times has the story.

Officials say the effort is beginning to flag in many parts of the country because of falling demand. This has led to concerns that Germany could struggle to reach herd immunity, which is estimated to require vaccinating about 80% of people. That number is disputed and has risen with the dawn of more transmissible strains.

The scale of the problem was highlighted yesterday by a poll published in Die Welt, which found that 12% of Germans had no intention of being immunised and 18% had yet to make an appointment.

Opinions differ on how to win them around. Some politicians have suggested offering cinema, museum or swimming pool tickets, or setting up drop-in vaccination stands in football stadiums and shopping centres. The Health Ministry has held out the prospect of abolishing swathes of pandemic restrictions once enough people have been jabbed.

However, a number of economists have proposed a much more straightforward incentive: hard cash. “With a cash reward, people can immediately see the positive impact on their finances and are free to use the money according to their own preferences,” Jan Schnellenbach, Professor of Economics at the Brandenburg University of Technology, said. …

Nora Szech, an Economist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, has calculated that a €500 bonus would raise the proportion of the population willing to be vaccinated to 90%.

Schnellenbach believes that €200 or €300 would be enough. “There are pointers in the academic literature, from laboratory and field experiments, that show you can achieve really quite big effects on people’s behaviour with this kind of sum,” he said.

Worth reading in full.

German R Number Has “No Direct Connection” With Lockdown, Say Researchers

Since the start of the pandemic, Germany has seen the lowest level of excess mortality of any major European country – just 4% according to the World Mortality Dataset. Is this because the country effectively suppressed the virus using lockdowns? A new research note suggests not.

Annika Hoyer, Lara Rad and Ralph Brinks – three researchers at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich – sought to compare the epidemic’s trajectory to the timing of lockdown measures. (Their paper is written in German, but you can translate it using Google.)

Hoyer and colleagues begin by noting that, due to changes in testing, case numbers are unsatisfactory for tracing the epidemic over time. They note, “Varying test behaviour should be understood here as the fact that in the course of the epidemic… the execution of tests has changed and changed very strongly, both temporally and regionally.”

They argue that the R number (the average number of people an infected individual transmits the virus to) provides a better guide to the epidemic’s trajectory. According to the authors, “The estimation of the R-value also involves some statistical difficulties, such as the necessary nowcasting, but the main disadvantage of the dependency on test behavior, which can imply large fluctuations, does not apply.”

Hence they plotted the R number over time, and looked for major changes or “breaks” in the series – as shown in the chart below:

The R number decreased dramatically in March of 2020. It rose slowly over the following six months (the apparent spike in the summer may be a random fluctuation due to the small number of cases at the time). It then rose more quickly in September, only to fall again in October. It fluctuated around 1 during the winter months, and has fallen since the start of April.

Given that Germany’s first lockdowns (which varied from state to state) were imposed around March 22nd, it’s clear that the initial decline in infections preceded them. (The statistician Simon Wood has argued that the same thing happened in Britain – i.e., infections were already declining when lockdowns came into force.)

Hoyer and colleagues point out that changes in the R number don’t seem to be correlated with the timing of winter lockdowns either. They note, “there has been no direct connection with the measures taken since September – neither with the lockdown light on November 2nd and the tightening on December 16, 2020, still with the ‘Federal Emergency Brake’, which was decided at the end of April 2021”.

Their research note provides further evidence that lockdowns have little impact on the epidemic’s trajectory beyond the effects of voluntary social distancing and restrictions on large gatherings.

“Freedoms” Being Restored in Germany – but Only for Those Who Have Been Vaccinated Against Covid

Germans will soon be able to reclaim some of their freedoms – but only if they agree to be vaccinated against Covid. Under plans similar to those that have been rolled out in Hong Kong, people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid will be permitted to engage in certain activities – such as visiting zoos and using the services of hairdressers – without prior testing. Rules on mask-wearing and “social” distancing will, however, remain in place for all. The Local, a German newspaper, has the story.

Several German states have already started easing restrictions for those who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus, as well as for people who have recovered from Covid.

But now the German Government is planning to push through new regulations to allow for freedoms for these groups of people – that would apply uniformly across the country…

Under the plans, the fully vaccinated, and people who’ve recovered from Covid, would be able to “enter shops, visit zoos and botanical gardens or use the services of hairdressers and podiatrists without prior testing”. 

They also wouldn’t have to stick to curfew rules. Mask and distance requirements would continue to apply to everyone. 

It comes after Health Minister Jens Spahn said last week the Government aimed to bring in the uniform regulations by the end of May. Several states pushed back, bringing in vaccination rights immediately. This move has clearly put pressure on the Government to act faster. 

Saarland’s State Premier Tobias Hans said he was pleased to see that “federal plans are now on the table” and wanted to see the nationwide law pushed through his week.

“The extensive restrictions on fundamental rights must not become permanent,” the CDU politician told the newspapers in the Funke media group on Monday.

Over a quarter of the German population has received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine and 7.7% is now fully vaccinated against the virus. Some of those who have been critical of the Government’s anti-Covid measures are being monitored by the country’s domestic spy agency for suspected sedition.

The Local’s report is worth reading in full.

Germany’s Domestic Spy Agency Monitoring Anti-Lockdown Activists for Suspected Sedition

German authorities are not taking criticism of the Government’s handling of Covid lightly. On Tuesday, we covered the raiding of the house, office and car of a Weimar judge who earlier this month ruled against the wearing of face masks in schools. Now, reports have emerged that the country’s domestic spy agency is monitoring anti-lockdown activists for suspected sedition. Reuters has the story.

Germany’s domestic spy agency is monitoring individuals who have joined anti-lockdown protests to decide if their rejection of Government curbs amounts to subversion and incitement to violence.

The surveillance includes some members of the “Querdenker” or “Lateral Thinkers” movement, which has been organising increasingly violent protests against coronavirus lockdowns and includes conspiracy theorists and suspected far-right extremists, a spokeswoman for the BfV spy agency said.

The movement started with small demonstrations in the southern city of Stuttgart last year but has grown in scope and reach, drawing to its protests Germans from all walks of life frustrated with lockdowns in place since November.

Authorities fear that far-right extremists and conspiracy theorists who either deny the existence of Covid or downplay its threat to public health are exploiting lockdown frustrations to stir anger against politicians and state institutions five months before a general election…

Domestic spies fear far-right extremists could seek to boost anger against state institutions such as the police after parliament gave temporary powers this month to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Government to enforce lockdowns in areas with high infection rates.

The new powers have drawn fierce criticism from opposition parties, including the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose leaders have joined anti-lockdown protests.

The BKA federal police agency has told parliament that the names of lawmakers who voted for the amendments figured in an online document titled, “Death list of German politicians”, while adding that they were in no imminent danger.

A spokeswoman for the BfV said: “Organisers of demonstrations which are mainly led by protagonists of the Querdenker movement have an agenda that goes beyond protesting against the state’s measures against the coronavirus.” The Interior Minister of the eastern state of Thuringia added that attacks made against the police demonstrate the extent of the radicalisation among anti-lockdown protesters.

Worth reading in full.

House of German Judge Who Ruled Against Masks in Schools Raided By Investigators

Earlier this month, we covered the ruling of a court in Weimar, Germany, that two schools should be prevented – with immediate effect – from forcing their pupils to wear masks, along with imposing social distancing measures and insisting on SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests. The judge said: “The state legislature regulating this area has gotten far removed from the facts, which has taken on seemingly historic proportions.” It has since been reported that the house, office and car of this judge have been searched by investigators because his ruling is thought to have violated the law. 2020News has the story.

The judge at the Weimar District Court, Christian Dettmar, had his house searched [on Monday]. His office, private premises and car were searched. The judge’s cell phone was confiscated by the police. The judge had made a sensational decision on April 8th, 2021, which was very inconvenient for the Government’s anti-Covid measures…

The decision… had caused quite a stir. It had been downloaded about two million times from the 2020News website alone.

The house search… took place obviously for political reasons.

According to a t-online report (translated from German by Google Translate), the Weimar judge’s ruling has been accused of being “manifestly unlawful”.

At the beginning of April, the judge ordered that the mask and test requirement for children at two Weimar schools were [to be] suspended because of an alleged risk to the welfare of the children. He had claimed responsibility for the decision. The administrative court, however, declared the mask requirement to be legal last week. The judges there indicated that they considered the family judge’s decision to be “manifestly unlawful”. Family courts are not empowered to issue orders to authorities.

The Weimar decision has also been heavily criticised… by other courts… The public prosecutor’s office is now investigating the initial suspicion that the judge could have “consciously and seriously distanced himself from the law” and made a decision that is not supported by the statutory provisions.

A demonstration against the treatment of the Weimar judge has been announced.

The 2020News report is worth reading in full.

Weimar Court Prohibits Mask-Wearing, Distancing Measures and Rapid Testing At Schools

A court in Weimar, Germany, has ruled that two schools should be prevented – with immediate effect – from forcing their pupils to wear masks, along with imposing social distancing measures and insisting on SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests, saying that “the state legislature regulating this area has gotten far removed from the facts, which has taken on seemingly historic proportions”. On mask-wearing, the court ruled that “the risk of infection is not only not reduced by wearing the mask, but is increased by [the widespread] incorrect handling of the mask”. The court also said “there is no evidence that compliance with distance regulations can reduce the risk of infection” and that “the regular compulsion to take a test puts the children under psychological pressure, because their ability to go to school is constantly put to the test”. The case was brought to court by a mother on child protection grounds.

There follows the text of an article published by 2020 News on this ruling – translated from German to English by Google. We think it’s so good we are reproducing it in full.

On April 8th, 2021, the Weimar Family Court decided in an urgent procedure (Az .: 9 F 148/21 – available in English here) that two schools in Weimar are prohibited with immediate effect from prescribing pupils to have mouth and nose coverings of all kinds (in particular wearing qualified masks such as FFP2 masks), complying with AHA minimum distances and/or taking part in SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests. At the same time, the court ruled that face-to-face teaching must be maintained.

For the first time, evidence has now been taken before a German court regarding the scientific meaningfulness and necessity of the prescribed anti-Covid measures. Hygiene doctor Professor Dr med Ines Kappstein, the psychologist Professor Dr Christof Kuhbandner and the biologist Professor Dr of Human Biology Ulrike Kämmerer have been heard.

The court proceedings are so-called child protection proceedings in accordance with Section 1666 Paragraphs 1 and 4 of the German Civil Code (BGB), which a mother had initiated for her two sons at the age of 14 and eight at the local court – the family court. She had argued that her children would be harmed physically, psychologically and educationally without any benefit to the children or third parties. This would also violate numerous rights of children and their parents under the law, the constitution and international conventions.

The proceedings according to § 1666 BGB can be initiated ex officio, either at the suggestion of any person or without such a person, if the court considers intervention to be necessary for reasons of the child’s best interests, § 1697a BGB.

After examining the factual and legal situation and evaluating the reports, the Weimar Family Court came to the conclusion that the now prohibited measures represent a current risk to the mental, physical or emotional well-being of the child to such an extent that further development without intervention is reasonably likely to foresee significant harm.

The judge stated:

…children are not only endangered in their mental, physical and spiritual well-being but are also currently damaged by the obligation to wear face masks during school time and to keep their distance from one another and from other people. This violates numerous rights of children and their parents under the law, the constitution and international conventions. This applies in particular to the right to free development of personality and to physical integrity from Article 2 of the Basic Law as well as to the right from Article 6 of the Basic Law to education and care by parents (also with regard to health care measures and ‘objects’ to be carried by children)…

With his judgment, the judge confirms the mother’s assessment:

The children are damaged physically, psychologically and educationally and their rights are violated, without any benefit for the children themselves or for third parties.

According to the conviction of the court, school administrators, teachers and others could not invoke the state legal provisions on which the measures are based, because they are unconstitutional and therefore null and void. Reason: You violate the principle of proportionality rooted in the rule of law (Articles 20, 28 of the Basic Law).

[The judge stated]:

According to this principle, which is also known as the prohibition of excess, the measures envisaged to achieve a legitimate purpose must be suitable, necessary and proportionate in the narrower sense – that is, when weighing the advantages and disadvantages achieved with them. The measures that are not evidence-based, contrary to Section 1 (2) IfSG, are already unsuitable for achieving the fundamentally legitimate purpose they pursue, namely to avoid overloading the health system or to reduce the rate of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In any case, however, they are disproportionate in the narrower sense, because the considerable disadvantages/collateral damage they cause are not offset by any discernible benefit for the children themselves or for third parties.

He clarifies:

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that it is not the participants who have to justify the unconstitutionality of the interference with their rights, but rather the Free State of Thuringia, which encroaches on the rights of those involved with its state regulations, has to prove with the necessary scientific evidence that the measures prescribed… are suitable to achieve the intended purposes, and that they, if necessary, are proportionate. So far, that has not yet happened.