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German lawmakers approve new COVID rules after warning of ‘really terrible Christmas’

German lawmakers wear face mask as they attend a Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, November 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
German lawmakers wear face mask as they attend a Bundestag session about new measures to battle the coronavirus pandemic at the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, November 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN — German lawmakers approve new measures to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.”

The measures pass in the Bundestag with votes from the center-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are currently negotiating to form a new government.

The legislation includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recently recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces; a similar rule will apply to public transport. The measures need to be approved by Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which could happen tomorrow.

Outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats had wanted to extend existing rules that expire this month and which have served as the basis for numerous national and state-wide restrictions since March 2020. In future, Germany’s 16 states will only be able to impose restrictions on cultural and sports events if their regional assemblies approve the measure.

Merkel’s party criticized the new rules, saying they would weaken the instruments at authorities’ disposal at a time when infections are soaring again.

Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reports 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks.

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