German lawmakers on Monday passed a new law aimed at protecting the health of its citizens from the spread of a deadly coronavirus.
The law, which takes effect on August 1, allows authorities to require health care providers to notify patients if they have symptoms that could indicate a possible coronaviruses threat.
The bill will be implemented gradually, with mandatory notification to health care professionals starting in 2019, and patients will be notified if they are infected with the virus.
The move comes after the government announced plans to phase out all outpatient treatment and allow patients to continue receiving their treatments at home.
Critics say the move is too little, too late, and will have a devastating effect on patients’ health.
The new law allows the government to ban all contact with non-health care professionals, such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists, while allowing them to remain on duty in public settings.
It also requires all public places, including airports, train stations and stadiums, to be fully equipped with health care facilities, and requires health care workers to be vaccinated.
The German Health Ministry said in a statement that the measures are necessary to keep the public safe and reduce the number of new cases of the coronaviral disease.
“We need to keep patients safe, we need to get them the medical treatment they need and, at the same time, we have to make sure that they are able to live normal lives and have a normal life,” German Health Minister Marlene Kuchma told broadcaster ARD.
Kuchma said she had no objection to doctors and nurses working outside the home, as long as they did not take advantage of their rights to practice medicine.
“But we want them to be able to keep their jobs,” she added.
Kochmar said he welcomed the decision to allow health care to be handled in a safe environment, but said that the move to require doctors and pharmacist to be in full protective gear should be applied equally to all healthcare workers.
“There is a need to protect our healthcare workers and we are moving ahead on that,” he told ARD, saying the move would make Germany the “only European country in the world where healthcare workers can be vaccinated.”
Health officials say the virus is still being detected in a large number of people, but they say the current level of testing in Germany is insufficient to prevent it from becoming endemic.
The number of cases has also risen dramatically, with the number more than quadrupled in the first half of the year to 4,000, according to the health ministry.
The government is still battling to contain the spread, which has already killed at least two people and caused thousands of others to contract the disease.