Germany Bans the Unvaccinated from Restaurants, Shops, and Public Venues
Plus: Texas' social media censorship law is blocked by a federal judge on First Amendment grounds, federal lawmakers avoid a government shutdown, and more...
Germany is excluding the unvaccinated from much of public life and U.S. policy makers are floating new restrictions of their own in response to rising COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant. On Thursday, outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her successor, Olaf Scholz, announced that Germans who haven't been vaccinated or recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection will be barred from entering all but the most essential businesses.
They will no longer be allowed to enter shops, restaurants, museums, movie theaters, and other public venues, reports Deutsche Welle. Private gatherings of the unvaccinated will also be limited to one household. Additionally, nightclubs and music venues will be forced to close in areas of the country with higher cases counts.
This is "how we get out of this crisis," said Scholz, who will take over as chancellor next week, at a news conference. "If we had a higher vaccination rate, we wouldn't be discussing this now."
Some 69 percent of Germans are fully vaccinated, compared to 59 percent in the U.S.
Federal and state lawmakers in Germany are expected to vote on these restrictions in the coming days. They will also consider mandating vaccines sometime next year.
In neighboring Austria, the government has imposed a populationwide lockdown to contain a recent rise in COVID-19 cases. Those restrictions were supposed to last for 10 days, but were recently extended to a cumulative 20 days. The country is also in the process of crafting a populationwide vaccine mandate.
Protests have flared up across Europe in response to the new pandemic restrictions. The New York Times reports German protests have been relatively small, attracting only a few thousand people. Tens of thousands of people have flocked to the streets of Vienna in protest of Austria's impending vaccine mandate and lockdown, reports Politico. In the Netherlands, riots broke out earlier this month at protests organized against the county's vaccine passport system.
Things are a little more tranquil here in the U.S. Nevertheless, the Biden administration, which has already imposed travel restrictions and testing requirements for international travelers to the U.S., has hinted that tougher measures might be on the way.
"Nothing is off the table," said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki at a news conference on Tuesday in response to a question about whether the administration would consider requiring people be vaccinated to board domestic flights or shipping at-home COVID-19 tests to all Americans.
Today, President Joe Biden is also set to announce tougher travel restrictions that will require people coming to the U.S. to be vaccinated and be tested for COVID-19 both before and after they enter the country. He'll also announce a nationwide campaign encouraging booster shots, and a new policy requiring health insurers to cover 100 percent of the costs of a COVID-19 test.
Masks are also here to stay in a few of the country's more hypochondriac jurisdictions. Oregon's state government is reportedly in discussions to make its indoor mask mandate a permanent rule.
INDOOR MASKING IN OREGON -- It's likely here to STAY.
Today, @OHAOregon worked with stakeholders (like those in the restaurant industry, business assoc., etc.) to discuss making the current indoor mask mandate permanent.#LiveOnK2 pic.twitter.com/r0gkNnWfsi
— Genevieve Reaume (@GenevieveReaume) December 3, 2021
San Francisco health officials have said that the city's own masking requirement isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
A Texas law restricting censorship by social media companies has been blocked by a federal judge. The Houston Chronicle has the details:
A federal judge in Austin Wednesday blocked Texas' social media censorship law, which prohibits large social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users "based on their political viewpoints." The law, known as House Bill 20, was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott on Sept. 9 and set to take effect Thursday.
However, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman wrote in his ruling that the measure interferes with platforms' First Amendment right to moderate content disseminated on their platforms. Pitman called content moderation "the very tool that social media platforms employ to make their platforms safe, useful, and enjoyable for users."
Pitman also said the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled several times that private entities have the right to exercise editorial judgment and choose what they want to publish, and "cannot be compelled by the government to publish other content."
The ruling shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Reason's Jacob Sullum described the law in September as "blatantly unconstitutional."
Congress passed a short-term budget resolution yesterday, averting the possibility of a government shutdown. The House and Senate both voted on Thursday evening to fund the federal government through February 18, reports The Washington Post.
The vote came after a tense week of negotiations during which some Republican senators had proposed letting the current spending authorization expire—thus shutting down the government—unless the new budget resolution excluded any funding for Biden's vaccine mandate.
Ultimately, senators were allowed to vote on an amendment to defund those mandates—which cover members of the military and private sector workers at companies with over 100 employees—which failed 48–50.
The new budget resolution includes $7 billion in funding for resettling Afghan refugees.
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