German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas has called for Covid-19 restrictions for those who have been vaccinated to be relaxed, saying they should get their rights back, as well as business owners who can reopen to serve them.
In an interview with German tabloid Bild on Sunday, Maas proposed allowing vaccinated Germans to go back to normal, arguing that “If there are only vaccinated people in a restaurant or a cinema, they can no longer endanger each other.”
Vaccinated people should be able to exercise their basic rights again
The lifting of restrictions would enable restaurants, cinemas, theaters, and museums – which were forced to close down to curb the spread of the virus – to open their doors to customers.
“They have the right to reopen their businesses at some point when there is a possibility. And it will come, if more and more people are vaccinated,” Maas said.
Maas acknowledged that granting more rights to the vaccinated than those who are still waiting for their turn to receive the shot will result in inequality. Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday that “some things could have been done faster,” in reference to the vaccine rollout, with 1 million doses being distributed so far. There have also been reports of medical staff shortages in small towns that have slowed the vaccination drive.
Maas defended his proposal, saying that although it will lead to temporary inequality, it is based on “an objective reason.” He argued that it is not likely for a vaccinated person to end up on a ventilator, meaning that “a least one of the main reasons for restricting basic rights” – to alleviate pressure on hospitals – “is no longer applicable.”
Germany has been under a particularly hard lockdown since December 16, which includes the closing of schools and all non-essential businesses. Although the restrictions are set to expire by the end of January, Spahn has already indicated that they will be extended.
In advocating for the vaccinated portion of the population to get their rights back, Maas has split with the ruling coalition, including his own party – the Social Democratic Party (SPD), junior partner to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives – which has refused to relax the sweeping lockdown measures.
Last month, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer opposed giving privileges to vaccinated people, saying it would be akin to mandatory vaccination.
“A distinction between vaccinated and non-vaccinated people is tantamount to compulsory vaccination. I am against compulsory vaccination,” he said at the time.