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Chancellor Olaf Scholz and state premiers from across Germany held talks on Monday to work out a strategy to deal with the rising number of coronavirus cases.

After consultations, state and federal leaders said they decided to maintain the country’s current course of action to combat the coronavirus pandemic and announced no changes to Germany’s already strict coronavirus rules were expected.

Before Monday’s meeting, Scholz had told Germany Southgerman newspaper newspaper, “we don’t need a change of course,” adding, “in any case, it is certainly not appropriate to relax the rules widely in the midst of the omicron wave.” State leaders agreed.

What did the German leaders decide to do?

One decision made at Monday’s meeting concerned the shortage of available PCR testing capacities. States agreed that they needed to be rationed, ensuring that those most in need, for example people in hospitals, care centers or integration offices, should have priority access to them. Until now, Germany had been trying to confirm each and every positive rapid test with a follow-up PCR test, provided free of charge by the state.

Politicians also called for the prioritization of vulnerable groups when it comes to contact tracing, with Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey arguing that sky-high omicron infection rates have been impossible to maintain, noting that state leaders had asked health ministers to come up with rules quickly. regulating what is in fact “feasible” when it comes to comprehensive tracking.

In addition, politicians decided to embark on a new public awareness campaign launching vaccines and boosters. Billboard, radio and social media ads will target those in Germany who have been unable or refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19, telling them: “Vaccination helps. Even your loved ones.”

Parliament will debate vaccination mandate

Hendrik Wüst, prime minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, on Monday reiterated calls by state leaders for a federal vaccine mandate, saying it was the only way to break the cycle of easing and tightening. blocking rules.

Vaccine mandates are the purview of the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, which is set to meet for preliminary discussions on the issue on Wednesday. On Monday, Wüst told reporters that another meeting of state premiers would take place no later than February 16, or perhaps sooner if necessary.

Germany has reported a series of new case numbers in the last two weeks as the omicron strain takes hold.

The country’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control said Monday that there were 840.3 new cases per 100,000 population in the past week, with 63,393 cases in the past 24 hours.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a trained epidemiologist, said he expects the numbers to peak in mid-February, with potentially as many as 600,000 new infections a day.

js, rc / msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)

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