German ‘jab to freedom’ Covid bill criticised as unfair to young people

A German “jab to freedom” bill that would from this weekend lift social-distancing rules, testing requirements and curfews for people who have been fully vaccinated, is drawing criticism for discriminating against young people still months from getting their first dose.

The legislation, authored by the justice minister Christine Lambrecht and approved by Angela Merkel’s cabinet on Tuesday, argues that people who have either recovered from a Covid-19 infection or been fully vaccinated against the virus must regain their basic rights because they no longer pose a threat to society.

People in those groups would be freed from the need to show a negative test before entering shops, hairdressing salons or zoos, according to media reports. They would also no longer be required to quarantine after entering Germany unless they are travelling from a country that has been designated a high-risk area.

Critics say the new rules would unfairly exclude younger people who have already sacrificed their social lives to protect a high-risk older population for more than a year.

Restrictions currently in place in German regions recording more than 100 infections per 100,000 people over seven days, such as a two-household rule for private get-togethers and a night-time curfew, would also no longer apply to those who have had two doses of the vaccine.

The legislation would not yet free vaccinated people from the requirement to wear a mask in designated public spaces, nor grant them privileges when booking hotels or holiday apartments.

The bill is to be debated in front of the two legislative bodies of the German parliament, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, on Thursday and Friday, and could come into effect as soon as the weekend.

The drive to loosen restrictions comes as Germany enters its sixth month of tough coronavirus controls and five months ahead of national elections that will give voters a chance to cast their verdict on the government’s handling of the pandemic.

After a rickety start, Germany’s vaccination drive has recently kicked into gear: 28.7% of the country’s population had received its first dose by Tuesday morning and 6.7 million people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Some federal states have already pushed ahead with special privileges for vaccinated people. The Bavarian premier, Markus Söder, said on Tuesday that test requirements or the night-time curfew would no longer apply to vaccinated or recovered people in his state from this Thursday.

The southern state is also planning to reopen outdoor dining, theatres, concert halls and cinemas in low-incidence regions for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people from 10 May.

Dr Wolfram Henn, a genetic scientist who sits on the German Ethics Council, advocated in the Berliner Zeitung newspaper for the government to prioritise children and teenagers for the next phase of vaccinations before the jab became available to all.

Germany’s police union has warned that the yellow paper passports with vaccine-specific stickers currently used to certify citizens’ immunity status can be easily forged. An EU-wide digital vaccination passport, the “digital green certificate”, is not due to be launched in Germany until June.

Scientists have also voiced concerns about freeing individuals from the need for testing. “It would be fatal if vaccinated and recovered people are in the future no longer required to be tested upon arrival in a country”, said Ute Teichert, the head of the Federal Association of Doctors in the Public Health Service.

“Without extensive testing we will lose track of infections, especially with view to variants of the virus,” Teichert told the Funke media group.