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German Minister says Restrictions should be Relaxed for People already Vaccinated

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FILE PHOTO: Health workers at a COVID-19 testing center in Berlin, Germany. December 23, 2020. REUTERS / Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN, Jan 17 (Reuters) – People vaccinated against COVID-19 should be able to go to restaurants and cinemas before everyone else, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Sunday, contradicting other members of the German government that so far they have opposed special freedoms for the inoculated.

Maas said the state had massively restricted people’s basic rights to contain infections and prevent the collapse of hospitals.

“It is not yet clear whether vaccinated people can infect others,” Maas told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“What is clear, however, is that a vaccinated person no longer removes a respirator from anyone. This removes at least one central reason for restricting fundamental rights.”

About a million people in Germany had been vaccinated as of Friday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Diseases. Germany has 83.2 million inhabitants, according to the latest census.

Maas’s statements contrast with those of other German ministers, who have opposed these special rights, fearing that this could lead to inequalities in society at a time when not everyone has the opportunity to be vaccinated.

A Justice Ministry spokesman told Reuters that “it is out of the question” to treat vaccinated people differently as long as it has not been scientifically proven that vaccination also prevents transmission of the virus.

Maas noted that the government was restricting the rights of people who run restaurants, cinemas, theaters and museums.

“They have the right to reopen their businesses at some point, if there is a possibility to do so,” he said, adding that if only people were vaccinated in those places there would be no danger.

While Maas acknowledged that this could lead to inequalities during a “transition period”, he said that such a move would be justified under the Constitution, provided there was an objective reason and did not affect basic public services.

(Information by Caroline Copley and Andreas Rinke; edited by Pravin Char, Kirsten Donovan; translation by Jorge Martínez)

Ben Oakley
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