German foreign minister calls for privileges for vaccinated

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has become the first German government minister to call for people with corona vaccinations to have special rights to eat at restaurants or go to the cinema.

German foreign minister calls for privileges for vaccinated
Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

“Vaccinated people should be allowed to exercise their basic rights again,” Maas told Bild am Sonntag newspaper over the weekend. 

“It has not yet been conclusively clarified to what extent vaccinated people can infect others,” he said. “What is clear, however, is that a vaccinated person will no longer take a respirator away from anyone else. This removes at least one central reason for restricting basic rights.”

Maas said it was important to consider the needs of shuttered restaurants, cinemas, theatres and museums. 

“They have a right to reopen their businesses at some point, if there is a possibility to do so,” he said. “And if more and more people are vaccinated, there will be a chance. If the only people in the restaurant or cinema are vaccinated they can no longer endanger one other.”

The German government has so far rejected the idea of restoring certain freedoms for vaccinated people, pointing out that it is still unclear whether they are infectious or not.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has warned against giving privileges to the vaccinated, saying that it would lead to a dangerous split in society. 

Maas, who used to be justice minister, disagreed: “Yes, this will lead to inequalities for a transitional period. But as long as there is a sound reason for it, it is constitutionally justifiable.”

Only around one million people in Germany have been vaccinated so far, which corresponds to slightly over one percent of the population. Most of the people who have so far been vaccinated are very old people or in need of care, as well as medical staff and caregivers.

Member comments

  1. Much better for government ministers to shut up and hold their opionion on this subject until a substantial segment of (at the evry least) the vulnerable population has been vaccinated correctly, efficiently and willingly. This kind of pronunciation is sleepwalking into divisive and sensitive issues by someone who should know better. Usually Heiko Maas is better at diplomacy than this, perhaps he has over-stepped his importance in Government…

  2. Why? The vaccine doesn’t prevent you from catching covid-19 & it doesn’t stop you from giving ot to another person. So why would anything change.for an individual who recieves a vaccination.

  3. @Adrian those are not facts. Neither has yet to be determined. Regardless, the point of restrictions is to keep hospitals from overflowing, not necessarily to stop the spread of the virus.

  4. @Adrian those are not facts. Neither has yet to be determined. Regardless, the point of restrictions is to keep hospitals from overflowing, not necessarily to stop the spread of the virus.

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Italy to step up test-and-trace and sequencing as concern grows about Delta virus variant

The Italian health ministry on Friday told local authorities to increase their coronavirus variant sequencing and tracing efforts, as new data confirmed that the Delta strain is spreading in Italy.

Italy to step up test-and-trace and sequencing as concern grows about Delta virus variant
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The ministry sent out the instruction in a circular after the Higher Health Institute (ISS) released new figures on Friday showing that the number of infections in Italy caused by the Delta and Kappa variants have increased by 16.8 percent in June.

“From our epidemiological surveillance, a rapidly evolving picture emerges that confirms that also in our country, as in the rest of Europe, the Delta variant of the virus is becoming prevalent,” said Anna Teresa Palamara, director of ISS’s infectious diseases department.

READ ALSO: Italian health experts warn about Delta variant as vaccine progress slows

According to ISS data published on Friday, the SARS-CoV-2 variant prevalent in Italy was found to be the Alpha variant (B.1.1.7), responsible for 74.9 of cases. This is now also the most prevalent globally.

Cases associated with Kappa and Delta variants (B.1.617.1/2) “are few overall in January to June”, the ISS report added. But it stated that the frequency and spread of these reports has “rapidly” increased across the country.

The new ISS figure  still lower than those from independent analysis of data from the virus-variant tracking database Gisaid, which estimated on Thursday that Delta now accounts for as much as 32 percent of recently confirmed new cases.

Several regions have already reported clusters of the Delta variant, though the amount of test result sequencing and analysis carried out by local health authorities in Italy varies and is often low.

Each region currently volunteers to do a certain number genetic sequencing of positive swabs, which means that Italy has less data available about the spread of variants than countries where sequencing is more widespread and systematic, such as the UK or Denmark.

The region of Puglia on Friday confirmed it would begin sending 60 test results per week for further analysis following the health ministry’s instruction.

Italian authorities had largely dismissed the risks posed by Delta in Italy until recently, describing its presence as “rare” in the country in the official data monitoring report released on June 11th.

Health officials had said at the end of May that they believed vaccinations would be enough to mitigate the risks.

But Italy’s government is now re-evaluating its approach following criticism of its response so far in a report published on Thursday by independent health watchdog GIMBE.

“A ‘wait-and-see’ strategy on managing the Delta variant is unacceptable,” wrote GIMBE head Dr. Nino Cartabellotta.

MAP: Where is the Delta variant spreading in Italy?

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

The report described Italy’s current levels of full vaccination coverage as “worrying” considering “the lower effectiveness of a single dose against this variant “.

At the moment, just over a quarter of the Italian population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, compared to 46% in the United Kingdom.

The report pointed out that some 2.5 million people aged over 60 in Italy have not yet received the first dose of a vaccine.

The foundation urged the government to “properly implement” measures recommended by the ECDC in its report published earlier this week: “enhance sequencing and contact tracing, implement screening strategies for those arriving from abroad, and accelerate the administration of the second dose in over 60s”.

Cartabellotta said: “You can’t control the Covid pandemic only with vaccines, masks and distancing. Today the Delta variant requires tracing and sequencing”.

Amid rising concern about the impact of the variant, which is thought to increase the risk of hospitalisation, Italian health authorities on Monday imposed new travel restrictions on arrivals from the UK – almost a month after other EU countries including France and Germany did the same.

Despite concerns about the spread of Delta, Italian health authorities on Friday also confirmed that all regions of Italy would be allowed to ease the health measures further from Monday, June 28th, as the number of infections recorded remained low this week.

READ ALSO: Italy to drop outdoor mask-wearing rule from June 28th

The last region still classed as a ‘yellow’ zone, Valle d’Aosta, will join the rest of the country in the low-risk ‘white’ tier, meaning most rules can be relaxed.

“With the decree I just signed, all of Italy will be ‘white’ starting from Monday. It is an encouraging result, but we still need caution and prudence,” Speranza
wrote on Facebook.

Referring to the spread of more transmissible variants of the coronavirus, the minister added: “the battle has not yet been won.”