Düsseldorf forced to lift face mask rule after court ruling

The German city of Düsseldorf was forced Monday to lift an order for residents to wear masks against the coronavirus, after a citizen successfully sued against the blanket rule.

Düsseldorf forced to lift face mask rule after court ruling
A sign urging people to wear a mouth and nose cover in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA

The setback for the western city came as Germany is fighting a surging second wave of Covid-19, with new daily cases reaching record levels almost every other day.

Düsseldorf authorities on Wednesday ordered masks in public across the city, with the exception of parks and cemeteries, unless the possibility of encountering other people who are fewer than five metres (16 feet) away can be precluded.

In its ruling, the court called Düsseldorf's order confusing because it did not provide clarity on “which conduct is required” while at the same time threatening a fine in case of non-compliance.

City authorities said they would re-examine the wording of their mask order following the ruling.

Opposition to strict curbs including maintaining safe distances or limiting social contacts has been rising in Germany and elsewhere across Europe.

A series of court cases favouring plaintiffs had last month toppled bans on hotel stays for domestic travellers from German districts with high prevalence
of the virus.

Thousands of demonstrators protesting the restrictions also ran riot in the eastern city of Leipzig on Saturday, flinging fireworks and other projectiles at police after they were told to disperse.

The violence shocked German leaders, sparking a hail of condemnation and questions over why the local court had even allowed the demonstration to proceed when it was clear that the protesters were unlikely to respect rules including on mask-wearing or maintaining a safe distance.

READ ALSO: German ministers condemn violence at Leipzig anti-mask rally

The Interior Ministry on Monday said that courts too need to act responsibly in the extraordinary situation thrown up by the pandemic.

“All authorities involved, including the courts, at this moment have a great responsibility in this exceptional situation and must make decisions in a way that they can be realistically implemented,” warned Interior Ministry spokesman Steve Alter.

Member comments

  1. I hope that citizen never has to receive medical assistance, and/or in the form of an operation, without the medical professionals, doctors and surgeons wearing a face mask…..
    Welcome back Middle Ages!

  2. I think it’s wonderful that this got challenged. There is no evidence for face mask effectiveness indoors, let alone outdoors.

  3. “Thousands of demonstrators protesting the restrictions also ran riot in the eastern city of Leipzig on Saturday, flinging fireworks and other projectiles at police after they were told to disperse”. Sorry but this is not true! Fireworks were thrown at the police by participants of counter demos. The Querdenker were peaceful! Please get your facts right!!!!

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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.