Countries sharply criticize new Infection Protection Act
Before the prime ministers' conference on Thursday, several German states have voiced criticism, some of it sharp, of the planned amendments to the Infection Protection Act. "We can't fight a pandemic sensibly like this," Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder (CSU) said in the Bavarian state parliament on Tuesday. The governments of Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg also criticized the current draft and called for changes.
"We agree in the state government that the planned law is insufficient," said Baden-Württemberg's vice premier and Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU) in Stuttgart. With the draft, he said, the federal government is "irresponsibly shifting responsibility to the states without giving them instruments to fight the pandemic."
"We still have hope that there will be improvements," explained Lower Saxony government spokeswoman Anke Pörksen in Hanover. However, there were no such signals coming from the federal government. Minister President Stephan Weil (SPD) had already expressed several times that the government was "not happy" with the current version of the law and "that we would like to have further possibilities of the most necessary protective measures."
The new Federal Infection Protection Act stipulates that after the expiry of the current corona rules on March 19, only so-called basic protection measures will apply as a rule. These would include mandatory use of masks in public transport and nursing homes. One day before the Bundestag debates on the new Infection Protection Act, the traffic light coalition also agreed to extend the regulations on future mandatory masks to doctors' surgeries and rescue services.
However, more far-reaching measures such as mandatory masks indoors will only be possible in hotspots. The Bundestag will deal with the bill for the first time on Wednesday - it will then also be the subject of a conference of minister presidents with Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on Thursday. The Bundestag and Bundesrat are expected to pass it on Friday.
At the same time, the bill still provides for a transition period until April 2, during which the states can still leave their corona protection measures that are currently already in force in force. Numerous states decided to make use of this option. This applied, for example, to Berlin, Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, Hamburg, Bremen, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, as well as Hesse and Thuringia.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) defended the draft for the new Infection Protection Act and the planned hotspot regulation. "Politics is about finding a compromise that has to work," he said on ARD's "Morgenmagazin." He said he had negotiated such a compromise with Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP). At present, he said, nationwide measures could no longer be well justified. The situation differs from region to region.
Some of the details of the new law are still unclear. Among other things, the states and the CDU/CSU parliamentary group have criticized ambiguous criteria for defining hotspots. "The planned hotspot regulation is nothing but hot air, because none of the criteria for activation is clearly defined," said the health expert of the Union faction in the Bundestag, Tino Sorge (CDU), to the "Augsburger Allgemeine". There will soon be a "patchwork of regional rules," he added.
The Hamburg Senate also spoke of an inadequate draft. "The pandemic is far from over," said its spokesman Marcel Schweitzer. According to him, the Hamburg state government also considers at least mandatory masking indoors outside hotspots still "necessary."
Andreas Gassen, chairman of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, advocated a continuation of the relaxation course in Germany. Despite currently very high infection figures, there was no threat of the healthcare system being overburdened, he told the "Rheinische Post" newspaper. Society must "finally learn to live with Corona without politics shutting down public life severely again and again every few months," he added.
Image by Gerd Altmann