Despite the high infection figures with the coronavirus, the Conference of Minister Presidents, which met on Thursday evening together with the new federal government, has initially decided no general contact restrictions over Christmas. However, one will look closely at the data on the development of the pandemic, especially with regard to the new Omikron variant, and also seek the advice of experts, said Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in the evening. Then, "if necessary, further decisions would be on the agenda at short notice".
The state premiers have agreed to meet again next week, confirmed North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst (CDU) and Berlin's Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD). The federal government and the heads of the state governments want to make whether such a meeting is necessary dependent on the vote of the Council of Experts at the Chancellor's Office. It is to meet for the first time next week and, in Scholz's words, give politicians advice by consensus.
Scholz said the Omikron variant now makes it all the more urgent that all those vaccinated "get a booster quickly." He said that in order to reach the goal of 30 million initial and booster vaccinations by the end of the year, the crisis team formed in the Chancellor's Office will hold an initial meeting with state representatives next week. Scholz said that in all likelihood, citizens will have to be vaccinated for even longer, which is why it would be good to open more vaccination centers and also involve pharmacists in the vaccination process. "We have to be prepared to need a prick every now and then to be well protected," the chancellor said.
Wüst said the infection situation in Germany is serious and "dramatic in some parts." He said there were doubts as to whether the existing legislation was sufficient in view of the omicron variant. However, he said it was good that the "traffic light" coalition had been willing to amend the Infection Protection Act. What's important in combating the pandemic, he said, is foresight as well as caution. "We have to use the high beams and not just drive by sight." Wüst advocated a "medication strategy" coordinated between the federal government and the states so that a good effect could be achieved through the early use of medication in the event of a corona infection. This could then also relieve the burden on intensive care units in hospitals.
Wüst also said that mandatory vaccination for staff in nursing homes must now come quickly. Scholz named March 15 as the deadline for this. This is necessary, he said, so that everyone can be vaccinated twice in good time before compulsory vaccination comes into force. The same will be done with the general vaccination requirement. Wüst indicated that he would have liked to see compulsory vaccination for nursing homes in February. The general vaccination obligation should also not be delayed. Müller said, "Compulsory vaccination will come." This fact alone now offers everyone who has not yet had themselves vaccinated "the chance to take another look at the subject."
All participants praised the talks between the state premiers and the members of the new federal government. Wüst said that the states wanted to work together with the new federal government on "trusting and fact-based" policies, especially in the crisis. The new Minister of Health, Karl Lauterbach (SPD), received special praise from Wüst and Müller. He had "a deep knowledge of the subject matter" and was, therefore, able to provide detailed answers to many questions, Müller said.
The Conference of Minister Presidents also decided to go beyond existing legislation to take action against incitement on the net, especially on the communication platforms of messenger services. Wüst said they were "dismayed by the extent of hate" being spread there. That is why there is an agreement to examine how criminal offenses can be punished there. It's about platforms that deliberately spread hate and stir up fear, said Müller.
Photo by Denis Jung