Why calls are growing for ‘clearer rules’ across Germany during coronavirus pandemic

Germany's federal system has resulted in differing rules throughout the coronavirus crisis. Now there is increasing pressure for uniform restrictions as the country battles a second wave.

Why calls are growing for 'clearer rules' across Germany during coronavirus pandemic
People walking in Delmenhorst, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

Germany reported 4,122 confirmed coronavirus infections within a 24-hour period on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for disease control. 

In view of the rising number of people contracting Covid-19 in Germany, there are growing calls for easy-to-understand rules to try and bring the situation under control.

With each of the country's 16 federal states operating differently when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions, there are concerns that the messages are not getting through to residents.

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder, of the centre-right Christian Social Union (CSU), urged his colleagues to embrace a more uniform approach to anti-corona measures. He said he was to advocate “clearer rules for all” at the planned meeting on Wednesday between state leaders and Chancellor Angela Merkel, of the CSU's sister party, the Christian Democrats (CDU).

READ ALSO: Coronavirus second wave: What we can expect in Germany this autumn and winter

Söder said he wasn't ruling out the possibility of tightening up coronavirus measures, not only regionally but also nationwide.

“Perhaps this would then also mean applying the same concepts to those regions with even lower incidences as we have now to those places with higher incidences,” Söder said, adding: “With the justification that if we use the measures to bring the numbers back down where they are high, they will also help to ensure that they do not go that high in the first place.”

Bavaria is to make masks compulsory in heavily frequented public places wherever there are more than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. Ultimately, however, it is up to the local authorities to decide on this.

READ ALSO: These are the current social coronavirus rules around Germany

'Rules must be comprehensible'

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn of the CDU has also called for clearer restrictions.

“When mobility is involved and there are no uniform rules, then (…) this undermines acceptance,” he said on Monday during a video conference at the ifo Institute. “That is why it is important to reach common ground with the state premiers on Wednesday.”

The German Association of Towns and Municipalities also called for a uniform solution which would apply nationwide.

Chief executive Gerd Landsberg, told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday: “With all rules it is important that they are effective and comprehensible to the people”

'Ban on overnight accommodation is hard to keep track of'

As The Local has been reporting, the controversial ban on overnight accommodation for holidaymakers from internal coronavirus hotspots is causing a huge debate in Germany, not least because it's tricky to understand.

Reinhard Sager, the head of the German District Council, told the news site T-online: “The ban on accommodation, which was introduced in different ways in the federal states, has led to a legal patchwork quilt that is hard to keep track of in everyday life and offers great uncertainty in society.”

Last Wednesday, most German states decided that travellers from areas of the Bundesrepublik with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 residents within seven days would not be allowed to stay overnight in hotels. However, there are still differences on how each state is implementing the rule, with some such as Berlin and Bremen choosing not to enforce it at all.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about Germany's Covid-19 internal travel restrictions

Ingrid Hartges, chief executive of the Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga), told the Saarbrücker Zeitung: “I have the well-founded hope that the federal government and the states will have to abandon this form of accommodation ban.”

Carsten Linnemann, deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, also called for the lifting of the ban. “This measure must go. It is anything but targeted, it is unlikely to be effective,” Linnemann told the Passauer Neue Presse.

However, Bavaria's Söder defended the measure – it offers security, including for the tourism and catering industry, he said.

READ ALSO: 'No evidence that hotels are hotspots': Should Germany lift its accommodation ban?

In Wednesday's meeting, the ban will be discussed. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Chancellor Merkel would listen to arguments from all sides regarding the accommodation ban. However,  as Germany is a federal country these are ultimately state regulations.

It's also expected that politicians will talk about education. One of the most important goals of Germany is to ensure that schools and Kitas (daycare centres) do not have to close again like the shutdown in March and April.


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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.