As temperatures drop, the Christmas season approaches and COVID cases rise in Europe, several European countries are making it increasingly difficult for unvaccinated people in an attempt to close immunization gaps and respond to the new wave without greater restrictions.
This pressure is taking the form, above all, of reinforced COVID passports that in practice prevent those who are unwilling to get vaccinated from entering many public spaces. The other public policy that is spreading is compulsory vaccination, especially for certain professional groups, but plans are also emerging to extend it to the general population. The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has been in favor of at least opening the debate.RELATED
One of the countries that has gone the furthest in this regard is Austria, where the population has been confined for days in an attempt to ease the burden on hospitals after a record spike in infections in November. According to data compiled by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 65.6% of the total population (76% of adults) have the full pattern in Austria, one of the lowest rates from Western Europe.
In a measure hitherto unprecedented in the European Union during the pandemic, the Government plans to impose mandatory vaccination on the general population. He will present the bill next week for approval by Parliament and it can take effect in February. There are some key questions to clarify about how it will work in practice, such as the minimum age for enforcement and who will be exempted. Authorities have said that children are likely not affected. The newspaper Die Presse has reported a first draft that provides fines of up to 7,200 euros for those who refuse to be vaccinated.
The announcement has intensified divisions in Austrian society. Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein has asked citizens to get vaccinated as soon as possible and not wait for the law to come into force. “Yes, [la obligación] supposes an interference in the rights and fundamental freedoms “, has recognized Mückstein, which is why, he said, they are talking to other parties, but at the same time he has defended that it is “the only alternative” to increase coverage.
In neighboring Germany, despite initial skepticism, the possibility of imposing mandatory vaccination of the general population it grows stronger and stronger. The Bundestag (the lower house of Parliament) is expected to decide whether or not to approve it in the coming weeks. The Federal Government and the Länder have celebrated this intention in a decision taken this Thursday, where they assure that it could come into force as soon as it is guaranteed that all the people who are going to be vaccinated can be vaccinated, that is, from February 2022. In addition, they ask the Ethics Council to prepare a recommendation in this regard before end of the year.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in favor, and the Social Democratic leader Olaf Scholz, who will succeed her next week, has also supported the measure and has promised to promote the parliamentary process. He has also assured that he will leave the deputies free to vote. The issue can meet with rejection, for example among the Liberals, their coalition partners. Lothar Wieler, the director of the health authority, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), has advocated this Friday for a careful debate and has made it clear that it is necessary to “resolve the pros and cons” of general mandatory vaccination, ensuring that ” it’s not that trivial. ” He would like, he said, a “really reasoned” decision in Parliament.
Vaccination has been reactivated in recent days in Germany, but the percentage of citizens with the complete regimen remains below other European partners, at 68.4%, according to the ECDC (81.9% of the adult population) . Germany has been at record levels of infection incidence for weeks and many hospitals are operating at full capacity. Acting Health Minister Jens Spahn said this Friday that the situation in intensive care units “will reach its sad peak” around Christmas and has assured that if all adults had been vaccinated, the country would not be He would face a similar situation.
The German Government wants to introduce compulsory vaccination for certain professional groups in the health sector, something that, according to German media,
In mid-September, the French Minister of Health, where immunization is mandatory for all who work with vulnerable people, announced the suspension of 3,000 health care professionals for non-compliance. The Italian Government, one of the first to order this measure, has recently extended it to teachers, the military and the police, and has also made the third mandatory dose for health workers. 70% and 73.3% of the population of France and Italy are fully vaccinated, respectively (and about 83% of adults, in both cases).
Greece has also been extending the obligation of the vaccine against COVID-19, from the staff of residences and health workers to those over 60, a decision that the Hellenic authorities have taken this week. Those who do not comply with this measure will face a fine of 100 euros per month from mid-January. The Government has justified the measure with the difficulties faced by the health system due to the increasing number of hospitalizations, mostly of elderly and unvaccinated people. About 63% of the Greek population (73% of the adult) is fully vaccinated, a figure lower than that of the EU as a whole.
Greece had already banned unimmunized people (or those who have not had the disease) in closed spaces, such as restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms at the end of November, as daily cases of COVID-19 reached record numbers .
Greece is one of the many European countries that are increasingly trying to tighten the fence on unvaccinated people, with restrictions that seek to limit their social life as much as possible in an attempt to boost immunization and respond to the wave of cases that are going through all the continent – attributed to several factors, such as the increase in social interaction and the arrival of cold (more time indoors), the lifting of restrictions, sometimes insufficient vaccination coverage and a context of more transmissible variants, such as the delta -.
The trend of these measures is often to tighten the requirements for COVID passports, eliminating the possibility of people taking a negative test to access certain places.
The latest example is Germany. In an attempt to reduce contacts and speed up immunization, the authorities have decided to put extreme pressure on those who do not get vaccinated: only those who have been vaccinated will be allowed access to cultural and leisure facilities and events – cinema, theater, restaurants. and past the virus. The same will happen in stores, with the exception of establishments of basic necessities. The “2G rule” – by geimpft or genesen (vaccinated or recovered) – it was already implanted in some states and will be extended to the entire country, it will be applied regardless of the infection figures and a negative test may also be requested. When there are unvaccinated people, the meetings will be limited to the home itself and two others from another bubble of coexistence, not counting minors up to 14 years of age. Nightlife will have to draw the blind if the incidence exceeds certain levels and fireworks have been banned on New Year’s Eve.
In Italy, the Government of Mario Draghi decided last week to strengthen the use of the health certificate to drastically restrict access to a number of places. Between December 6 and January 15, the pass that is requested for leisure activities and shows that a person has been vaccinated, has overcome the disease or has a negative test will only be valid in the first two cases. It is what has been called the super green pass, and it will mean in practice that unimmunized people will not be able to enter places such as shows, restaurants and sporting events.
In France, the third dose (open to the entire population over 18 years of age) will be necessary to keep the health passport that is required to access most public places, such as restaurants, discos or theaters. This certificate does include the possibility of presenting a negative test, but the conditions in this regard have recently been strengthened, and the validity period of PCR or antigen tests has been reduced from 72 to 24 hours.