Germany’s federal and state governments agreed Thursday on new coronavirus measures, including tougher restrictions for those who are unvaccinated amid record cases.
Decisions were made during a videoconference meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel, likely successor Olaf Scholz and premiers of 16 federal states.
Federal states will put in place tougher measures if COVID-19 hospitalization rates exceed agreed on benchmarks in their regions.
If the rate exceeds three per 100,000 people, the state will introduce the “2G rule” and allow only those who are vaccinated and those who have recovered to indoor public spaces, like restaurants, cafes and cultural facilities.
In the case of a hospitalization rate above nine per 100,000 people, federal states will apply tougher rules and restrict personal contact in public spaces.
Currently, in 12 federal states, including Bavaria, Saxony and Thuringia, the hospitalization rate exceeds three per 100,000.
The premiers also called for mandatory vaccinations for certain employees in the health sector, including staff at hospitals and nursing homes, who work with vulnerable populations.
Germany hit its highest daily number of coronavirus cases on Thursday since the pandemic began last year, as officials warned that hospitals were now at the limits of their capacity.
The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 65,371 new infections in the last 24 hours and 264 additional virus-related deaths.
Active cases climbed to 532,600, reaching a new high in the current fourth wave of the pandemic, according to official data.
There were 3,376 seriously ill patients in intensive care units Wednesday, with 1,710 on mechanical ventilators.
Infections in Germany soared in recent weeks as people spend more time indoors during the colder months and a large part of the population remains unvaccinated.
The government's goal has been to vaccinate at least 75% of the population to prevent an exponential rise in new infections.
But as of Thursday, 56.4 million people, or 67.8% of the population, have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
Germany's overall vaccination rate lags behind many other EU members, including Portugal, Spain and Italy.