BERLIN (AP) — Germany's Constitutional Court has refused to temporarily block the implementation of a coronavirus vaccine mandate for care and health workers that is due to come into force in mid-March.
The country's top court said Friday that it had rejected a bid to impose an injunction against the measure until a legal challenge against its constitutionality is formally reviewed. The Karlsruhe-based court received dozens of complaints after Parliament approved the measure late last year.
The German government welcomed the decision.
“A vaccinated person has a minimal risk of side effects,” Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist, wrote on Twitter. “(The vaccination) protects elderly and sick people he cares for from death or serious illness.”
Staff in nursing homes, hospitals and doctors' practices, physiotherapists and midwives have to prove by March 15 that they have been vaccinated against Covid-19. Those who fail to do so can be banned from working, to prevent vulnerable people from being infected by unvaccinated staff.
Lawmakers from the three governing parties on Friday also presented a first proposal for a universal vaccine mandate. The plan would require all adults in Germany to show upon request from Oct. 1 that they have received three vaccinations or recovered from Covid-19. Medical exemptions would be possible; the law would need to be reviewed every three months and automatically expire at the end of 2023.
Germany's main opposition party, the center-right Union bloc, has backed away from compulsory vaccinations, which were supported by its former leader former Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Christian Bernreiter, a regional official in the southern state of Bavaria, warned Friday that there could be a shortage of staff to care for older and disabled people if authorities enforce the vaccine mandate in the health care sector.
Merkel's successor, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Social Democrats, said Friday that he backed both the limited vaccine mandate for care and health workers, and the broader requirement for all to get shots.
“Because the next fall and winter will again see a rise in infections the universal vaccinate mandate also makes sense,” he said in a speech to the upper house of parliament.
Scholz said Germany had managed to get through the pandemic better than many of its European neighbors and indicated that some of the restrictions could be relaxed in spring. Federal and state officials are due to hold a meeting next week to discuss easing measures that largely locked unvaccinated people out of public life.
Germany's disease control agency reported more than 240,000 newly confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, and 226 deaths.
By FRANK JORDANS Associated Press
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