Germany bans export of masks and gloves over coronavirus

Germany's Interior Ministry on Wednesday said it had banned exports of medical protection gear such as masks and gloves to ensure health workers in the country have enough to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

Germany bans export of masks and gloves over coronavirus
A so-called FFP2 face mask, which the Robert Koch Institute recommends for medical personal. Photo: DPA

The move comes as governments around the world are scrambling to protect supplies as fears over the deadly virus have sparked panic buying, hoarding and even theft.

In a statement, Germany's Interior Ministry said it had published a decree in the Federal Gazette outlawing “the export abroad of medical protective gear (masks, gloves, protective suits, etc.)”.

Exceptions can be made, it added, for instance as part of “international aid missions”.

It came after doctors in Germany reported they were concerned about not having enough protective equipment to deal with the spread.

Germany has recorded 240 cases of the novel coronavirus so far, the bulk of them in North Rhine-Westphalia state where an infected couple attended carnival celebrations last month.

But cases have been confirmed in all of Germany's 16 states except for the eastern Saxony-Anhalt.

READ ALSO: MAP: The parts of Germany most affected by coronavirus outbreak

The state's health minister Karl-Josef Laumann told reporters on Wednesday that North Rhine-Westphalia would buy one million masks to help keep medical staff safe.

Like other countries, Germany has also cancelled a string of major events such as ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism fair and the Leipzig Book Fair, to contain the spread of the virus.

The Hannover Messe, one of the world's largest industrial trade fairs drawing in some 200,000 visitors a year, joined the list when it announced Wednesday that next month's event would be moved to July.

READ ALSO: Berlin travel fair ITB cancelled over coronavirus fears

In Frankfurt, the European Central Bank said it was limiting staff travel and postponing some events, including “ECB Listens”, the first in a series of talks with members of the public that was set to be held in Brussels on March 26th.

But the ECB's 25-member governing council will gather as scheduled for next week's monetary policy meeting.

The March 12th press conference after the meeting will also go ahead as planned, though journalists who do not wish to attend in person may exceptionally submit their questions in advance, the central bank said.

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Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.