Germany Says Mandatory Vaccines 'Unavoidable' to Combat Rising COVID Cases in Europe

Germany is the latest European country mulling mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, as well as new lockdown measures, to combat its fourth wave of infections.

Several officials in Chancellor Angela Merkel's government have been making noises about making COVID vaccinations compulsory, with federal tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss stating on Sunday that mandatory vaccines were "unavoidable."

Bareiss told German news agency DPA: "In retrospect, it was wrong not to see it right from the start. The hope at the time is understandable, but it was not realistic."

Germany recorded 48,201 new cases of the disease on Saturday, its highest number of infections on one day, according to Our World In Data.

About 70 percent of the country's population has had at least one dose of vaccine so far, which matches the inoculation rate of the United States and Austria—the only European country to have announced plans to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.

Announcing the move on Friday, Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said it would come into force, with medical exemptions, from February 1; though it is not clear what penalties will exist for refusing shots.

In Germany, Markus Söder, the Bavarian state premier, has since spoken about the possibility of following Austria. "Just like in Austria, we have to discuss the need for a vaccine mandate for everyone from the second half of next year," he said on Sunday.

Tilman Kuban, head of the youth wing of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), wrote in Die Welt newspaper: "We've reached a point at which we must clearly say that we need de facto compulsory vaccination and a lockdown for the unvaccinated."

Germany's health minister, Jens Spahn, has refused to rule out a nationwide lockdown.

Anti-Mandate and Lockdown Protests

Protests against mandatory vaccinations and reimposing social restrictions have been held in recent days across Europe, where case numbers continue to rise.

In Netherlands, demonstrations against COVID restrictions in Rotterdam on November 19 resulted in a police car being set on fire. Those protests trailed an announcement a week before that the government intended to implement a partial lockdown.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people marched in Brussels, Belgium, over the weekend, with some protesters throwing fireworks at police officers, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

There were also protests in Germany last weekend. Two COVID-19 test centers in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia were set on fire on Sunday morning, police said.

Europe was the only region where COVID-related deaths increased last week, according to the World Health Organization.

Germany COVID warning
A sign telling people to wear a face mask, featuring Santa Claus and reindeers, is pictured on the main shopping street "Zeil" in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany, on November 20, 2021, two days before the Christmas market is set to open there amid the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic. Germany is considering making vaccines mandatory. Yann Schreiber/AFP