Germany to launch nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated

Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel, alongside successor Olaf Scholz, announced Thursday that unvaccinated citizens will be prohibited from entering nonessential public places, according to BBC News

Those who are unvaccinated will be barred from places such as restaurants, shops, bars or events, with the exception being if they have recently recovered from a case of COVID-19.

"Culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered," Merkel said in announcing the lockdown.

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Unvaccinated people will still be permitted to enter essential stores, such as supermarkets and pharmacies, CNN reports.

Additionally, unvaccinated people can only meet two people from another household, and bars and clubs must close in areas with an incidence rate above 350 cases per 100,000 people over one week, according to German political news site DW Politics.

The announcement comes after discussions with regional leaders, who have expressed concern and desire for mandatory vaccinations

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The German state of Bavaria's leader Markus Söder said Sunday that mandating vaccines was "the only chance" to end the pandemic.

Scholz expressed a desire to implement mandatory vaccination measures and lockdowns for the unvaccinated as early as February, and has recently faced pressure to impose stricter policies amid increased cases and concerns about the new omicron variant. 

Austria became the first country in Europe to return to a full COVID-19 lockdown for a scheduled 10 days in response to omicron, though the lockdown could potentially be extended. On Feb. 1, Austria will also enforce a nationwide vaccine mandate.

As of Dec. 2, 69 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated and there has been an average of 57,621 cases per day, which is a 32 percent increase in the past two weeks, according to data from The New York Times.

The daily death toll in Germany has also increased with an average of 294 deaths per day, a 54 percent increase in the past two weeks. 

Germany surpassed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 last week.