Covid Normal, Part 1: Germany

Regular readers may be interested to know that I have recently relocated to a university town in central Germany. Aside from enjoying the welcoming people and delicious food, it’s also an opportunity for some on-the-ground reporting on post-lockdown pandemic life.

Germany is now approaching 50% of its population being fully vaccinated, with another 14% having received their first vaccine shot. This is despite a relatively slow start to their roll-out, after German officials agreed that vaccines be distributed equally between EU countries.

But supply isn’t all there is to vaccinating a population. As Australia will discover once it passes that first hurdle, it’s also about convincing people to turn out and get their shot.

The German approach to incentivising vaccines is to offer normal freedom of movement to the vaccinated. The headline measure here is the vaccine passport. EU citizens can now travel between countries, and non-EU nationals can enter the EU, with just a vaccination certification. There is no need to have a negative Covid test.

But this also extends right into everyday life. Want to check into a hotel? Show your vaccination certificate. Want to take an indoor table at a restaurant instead of sitting outside in the midday sun? Show your certificate. Want to queue for your take-away coffee indoors, instead of waiting outside in the rain? Show your certificate.

You can do those same things without being vaccinated, but you would need to continually be tested for Covid-19 and prove your negative status. It is possible to easily get a rapid antigen test if you want one, and you can even have a 35-minute turnaround on a PCR test (if you’re willing to pay a steep fee).

One thing vaccinations do not exempt you from in Germany is wearing a mask. In fact, even in mid-summer with more than half the population vaccinated, it’s quite the faux pas to enter an indoor space without a mask.

This may prompt cheap “gotcha” claims from anti-vaxxers, but it is the correct approach. Vaccinated people can carry SARS-CoV-2, but are much less likely to become symptomatically or severely ill from the virus.

In Part 2, we’ll dive into how that issue is playing out in the now largely vaccinated UK, where Covid case numbers are rising but the mortality rate remains low.

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