German chancellor seeks nationwide vaccine mandate by February: reports

Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for all Germans and supports prohibiting unvaccinated Germans from entering nonessential stores, multiple outlets reported, citing an official close to Scholz.

The official said Scholz signaled sympathy for such a regulation to begin as soon as February while at a crisis meeting Tuesday that included the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose position Scholz is poised to take over next week, according to Politico Europe.

Reuters reported that Scholz also expressed support for mandating that businesses such as nonessential stores require customers to show proof of vaccination or recent coronavirus recovery.

Scholz is facing pressure to impose stricter measures in Germany as COVID-19 cases soar in the country and concerns mount about the new omicron variant. The country confirmed on Saturday that a case of the variant has been detected within its borders.

Other German leaders who govern federal states have previously spoken in favor of mandatory vaccinations, Politico reports. Bavaria's Markus Söder said Sunday that mandating vaccines was "the only chance" to end the pandemic.

Austria became the first country in Europe to return to a full COVID-19 lockdown for a scheduled 10 days in response to omicron, though the lockdown could potentially go on longer. On Feb. 1, Austria will also be the first country in the European Union to enforce a nationwide vaccine mandate.

Austria and Germany have lower vaccination rates than many other countries in Western Europe.

According to New York Times data as of Tuesday, 68 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated, whereas 67 percent of Austrians are fully vaccinated.

Portugal has an 87 percent rate of full vaccination, while Spain is at 80 percent, and Ireland and Denmark are both at 77 percent.

Last week, Germany surpassed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. It also hit its record for highest daily case rates, which hit 75,961 last week.