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'a very, very difficult situation'

German parliament to consider general vaccine mandate, as Merkel announces new restrictions for unvaccinated

Germany on Thursday announced sweeping new restrictions on those unvaccinated against COVID-19, barring them from nonessential stores, cultural, and recreational venues, The Associated Press reports. The nation's parliament will also consider a general vaccine mandate that could take effect beginning February at the earliest, in an attempt at curbing yet another COVID surge battering the county, CNN writes.

In one of "her final acts" as German chancellor, Angela Merkel announced the restrictions following talks with successor Olaf Scholz and Germany's 16 regional premiers.

"Culture and leisure nationwide will be open only to those who have been vaccinated or recovered," Merkel said Thursday. "We have understood that the situation is very serious and that we want to take further measures in addition to those already taken," she added. Merkel also said officials agreed to "require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year," writes AP. Only those who have been inoculated or previously infected will be allowed into restaurants, theaters, or non-essential stores, reports Bloomberg.

Scholz, who is due to be sworn in next week, said he expects a vaccine mandate to pass parliament. Both he and Merkel back the measure. About 68.7 percent of the German population is fully vaccinated, according to AP.

"We're in a very, very difficult situation," said Scholz, per Bloomberg. "We have very many citizens who are vaccinated but not enough to prevent another wave of infections. Those who have not been vaccinated must do so, and that's my very urgent personal appeal."