Chancellor Angela Merkel and her designated successor Olaf Scholz were meeting German regional leaders yesterday to finalize new measures to tackle surging COVID-19 cases, with compulsory jabs among the options on the table.
Infections have smashed records in Germany in recent weeks and hospitals are sounding the alarm, with many already over capacity and sending patients to other parts of the country for treatment.
Though the seven-day incidence rate has fallen slightly this week, it still stood at 442.9 new infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday, with 67,186 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Merkel, Scholz and the leaders of Germany's 16 states tightened COVID curbs just two weeks ago, but came together again on Tuesday to discuss tougher measures and are now expected to fine tune the plans.
After Tuesday's meeting, Scholz said he was in favor of compulsory vaccination for all Germans and wants parliament to vote on the matter before the end of the year. "Too many people have not got vaccinated," he told Bild television. Making jabs compulsory is justified "to protect us all," he said.
Many experts have blamed Germany's surging fourth wave on its relatively low vaccination rate of around 68 percent, compared to fellow European Union countries such as Spain on 79 percent and Portugal on 86 percent.
Compulsory jabs should be in force "in the beginning of February or March so we must move quickly now," Scholz said.
Merkel's outgoing government had always ruled out mandatory vaccination, but the measure is now backed by politicians from across the spectrum.
Merkel's spokeswoman stopped short of endorsing the measure but said Germany was "in a dramatic situation in the pandemic where new possibilities have to be thought about."