Unvaccinated people are to be banned from nonessential shops as well as cultural and recreational venues like bars, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said.

Amid soaring coronavirus cases, the country’s parliament will also consider a general vaccine mandate - which could come into force by February - impose limits on private gatherings, and require masks in schools, Merkel said as she warned of increasing pressure in hospitals in Germany.

“The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measures an “act of national solidarity.”

The policy comes as Germany’s disease control agency reported 73,209 newly confirmed cases on Thursday. The Robert Koch Institute also reported 388 new deaths from covid-19, taking the country’s death toll since the start of the pandemic to 102,178.

Meanwhile, the circulation of the new variant omicron is causing further concerns as scientists rush to understand how transmissible, deadly, and vaccine evasive it is.

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Roughly 68.7 per cent of the population in Germany is fully vaccinated, far below the minimum of 75 per cent the government is aiming for.

Finance minister Olaf Scholz, who is expected to be elected chancellor by a center-left coalition next week, said on Tuesday that he backs a general vaccine mandate, but said he was in favour of letting lawmakers vote according to their personal conscience rather than party lines on the matter.

Germany is not the only country considering such a move. Austria is planning mandatory vaccinations from February while Greece has also announced mandatory jabs for the over-60s, with unvaccinated people facing fines if they fail to comply. The EU is mulling over similar policy.

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