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AFP
May 5, 2021

Germany to ease virus curbs for vaccinated people

World

AFP
May 5, 2021

BERLIN: People who have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will no longer have to abide by curfews and contact restrictions in Germany under a draft law agreed by the cabinet on Tuesday.

The law, which would also apply to people who have recovered from Covid-19, must still be signed off by parliament but could come into force as early as this week, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht said.

There must be a "good reason" for any restrictions on public life, Lambrecht said. "As soon as this reason ceases to exist... these restrictions should then no longer be in place," she said. Under national measures introduced in April, areas of Germany with an incidence rate of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 people over the last seven days must introduce overnight curfews and people may only meet with one other person from another household during the day.

But people who have been vaccinated, or who have recovered from Covid and therefore have natural immunity, should in future be exempt from these rules, Lambrecht said. The draft law seen by AFP would also exempt vaccinated and recovered people from quarantine rules for people returning from abroad, even from areas deemed high risk.

Areas of Germany with incidence rates under 100 are currently allowed to open shops, restaurants, cinemas and other facilities, but only to people who can provide a negative test. Under the new regulations, vaccinated and recovered people would also be exempt from this requirement. Some German states, including Berlin and Bavaria, have already announced plans to scrap the negative test requirement for vaccinated people when they go shopping or visit the hairdresser.

The Bavarian cabinet on Tuesday also signed off a plan to allow hotels, holiday homes and campsites to open in regions with low incidence rates from May 21. However, Bavaria’s iconic Oktoberfest beer festival, which usually attracts millions annually in September and October, will be cancelled this year for the second year running.

Germany has been in some form of virus shutdown since November, with numbers of new infections remaining consistently high amid an initially sluggish vaccination campaign. Leaders in Europe, meanwhile, were looking to take further steps towards recovery with a proposal to revive international travel and tourism as early as next month.

The European Commission proposed Monday that travellers who are fully vaccinated with EU-approved shots or those coming from countries where Covid-19 is under control should be allowed to enter the bloc.

And in China, where the virus first emerged in 2019, millions of tourists have flocked to domestic tourist attractions with the country’s outbreak largely under control. As Canada’s vaccination campaign ramps up, people at higher risk of transmitting Covid-19 often lack the resources to navigate labyrinthine booking systems or the documentation that would ease their path to inoculation.

Those without provincial health insurance, such as refugee claimants or undocumented workers, often perform front-line jobs or live in neighbourhoods that put them at high risk of infection. Immunizing this population is critical to tackling Canada’s crushing third-wave of the pandemic, epidemiologists said.

But a recent study from Toronto's ICES - previously known as the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences - found vaccination rates are lower among Ontario's immigrants, refugees, and those new to the provincial health system.

Twenty-two percent of refugees had at least one dose of vaccine, as did 12% of recent provincial health plan registrants, well below the 38% for Canadian-born and long-term residents, the study found.

The study did not look at people who lacked provincial health insurance. Ontario, Canada's most populous province, does not require people to have provincial health insurance to qualify for a Covid-19 vaccine. But it can be extremely difficult for people without a health card to sign up for a shot.