Germany | Bitter failure for Olaf Scholz on compulsory vaccination

(Berlin) Snub for Olaf Scholz: the German chancellor, already criticized for his lack of charisma, failed on Thursday to pass a compulsory vaccination project against COVID-19, however largely emptied of its substance.

Posted yesterday at 8:29

Mathieu Foulkes
France Media Agency

A bill, stemming from a promise by Angela Merkel’s successor, won 296 votes in favor but was rejected by 378 Bundestag deputies. Nine members of the lower house of the German parliament abstained.

The Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, immediately assured that the objective of compulsory vaccination was not “abandoned”, in order to “avoid unnecessary victims in the fall”.

The political failure is nevertheless significant for the Chancellor, who spoke in the fall for compulsory vaccination for all adults, promised then for “end of February or beginning of March”.

“I am naturally disappointed, but the Bundestag has decided” and “I respect a democratic decision”, declared the head of government during a press conference after a meeting with the representatives of the regional States devoted to the reception of Ukrainian refugees in Germany.

Sudden departure from Brussels

The new social-democratic chancellor was unable to bring behind him all of the three parties in his own government coalition, bringing together social-democrats, ecologists and liberals, nor the conservative opposition.

In the absence of a visible strategy and a project openly concocted by the government, which officially contented itself with supporting a proposal from the Social Democratic parliamentary group, the compulsory vaccination project was gradually emptied of a part of its content during parliamentary negotiations. Before completely failing.

“We rarely witness such a political debacle,” scathing in an editorial the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“It is not only cowardice, but also a lack of seriousness”, regretted the daily, convinced that compulsory vaccination is “unfortunately” necessary.

The subject is thorny in a Germany where the anti-vaccine movement is strongly mobilized.

The liberals of the FDP in particular, although in government, have slowed down for months on the idea of ​​a vaccination obligation. Six out of ten Germans, however, were in favor according to a Civey poll carried out in mid-March.

Despite a proposal for an obligation reserved in the end only for those over 60, the government was unable to gather a majority in the Bundestag.

This setback will fuel growing criticism in recent months of Olaf Scholz’s discretion and lack of leadership.

He even drew sarcasm on Thursday by forcing his head of diplomacy, Annalena Baerbock, to leave a NATO meeting in Brussels on Ukraine to come and participate in the vote, several media reported.

This sudden departure from Brussels of the popular ecologist minister thus offered an angle of attack to the conservatives.

“For the chancellor to call the foreign minister back and say ‘no, Ukraine is not important, it is more important that the political interests of the parties are taken into account’, this is a completely unreasonable signal, including for the world,” a leader of Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, Paul Ziemiak, got angry on the website of the daily Die Welt.

Disappointments

The health situation remains degraded in Germany, which has recorded more than 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 every 24 hours in recent days. The seven-day incidence rate exceeds 1,200.

Some 76% of the population received two doses of the vaccine. Only 58.9% of Germans received a booster dose against COVID-19, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

The Scholz government has multiplied the disappointments in recent days about the pandemic.

The Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach, thus gave up on Wednesday, in the face of criticism, to lift the 1is may require isolation in the event of COVID-19 infection.

“It was a mistake for which I am personally responsible. This gave the wrong signal” inducing that this measure ultimately “minimizes the pandemic”, admitted the Minister of Health.

The minister in Olaf Scholz’s government had announced on Monday that the isolation requirement, currently seven days before a negative test, would be lifted on 1is may. A decision taken with the representatives of the 16 Länder but immediately criticized by the opposition and associations.

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