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Calls grow in Germany for uniform coronavirus rules

Germany's Interior Minister and Bavaria's State Premier have called for coronavirus regulations to be applied consistently across the country after some states failed to apply "emergency-brake" measures even as cases rise.

Calls grow in Germany for uniform coronavirus rules
Christof STACHE / AFP

On Sunday, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that there was a “great longing in the population for uniform rules”.

“My proposal, therefore, is to establish uniform regulations by a federal law,” the former leader of the CSU said.

The CSU or Christian Social Union is the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU).

READ ALSO: German politics – 10 things you need to know

“This law should precisely prescribe which steps would have to be taken for each of the incidence values – from tightening to easing [of restrictions,]” he said.

This proposal was echoed by Markus Söder, who succeeded Seehofer as premier of Bavaria and leads the CSU.

“To combat coronavirus effectively, we need a uniform, national pandemic plan instead of a patchwork of unclear rules in individual states, he told Sunday newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

This would allow so-called “emergency-brake” measures to be consistently applied when new infections exceeded 100 per 100,000 residents within a seven-day period.

He told the paper that Germany should also consider whether a further shorter but stricter lockdown might be better than a “half-hearted and therefore endless Corona concept, that has also not really reduced the number of new infections.”

READ ALSO: Covid-19 variants comprise ‘almost 90 percent of new cases in Germany’

Earlier, a government spokesperson told press agency DPA that the government was currently considering whether and how they could implement uniform rules to stem infections should state measures prove insufficient, the Rheinische Post reported.

“The states have all the instruments at their disposal. And we can see that in many states additional measures are being implemented, too,” the spokesperson told DPA.

Last week, Angela Merkel criticised some of Germany’s states for not implementing agreed Covid resolutions when case rates rose above 100 per 100,000 residents.

For the whole of Germany, on April 4th, the seven-day incidence rate stood at 127 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

This is slightly less than last Sunday’s figure of 130 per 100,000 residents.

The below chart from Our World in Data shows the rolling seven-day average of daily new confirmed Covid cases in Germany.

 

Speaking on the ARD programme Anne Will, Merkel said that if states didn’t do this “within the very foreseeable future”, she would have to consider ways to implement regulations at a national level.  

However, not everyone is in favour of national regulations.

Dietmar Bartsch, leader of Die Linke’s parliamentary group, told the Funke Mediengruppe newspapers that uniform Covid-19 rules would not be enshrined in national law because “there is, rightly, no majority for this, either in the Bundestag [the lower house of parliament] or the Bundesrat [the upper house of parliament]”.

“All the legal options for managing the pandemic are available,” he said.

Bartsch also supported Health Minister Jens Spahn’s promise to give more freedom to those who have been fully vaccinated.

“If the scientific data confirms it is safe, of course vaccinated people should be able to exercise all their rights once again,” he said.

Earlier, Spahn promised more freedom to people who had received both doses of a Covid vaccine.

This was based on the Robert Koch Institute’s assessment of the latest scientific findings, which state that those who are fully vaccinated are no longer able to pass the virus on.

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POLITICS

How successful was Germany’s latest ‘Warning Day’?

For Germany's second emergency 'Warning Day' Thursday, all cell phones were set to sound off at 11am, but many stayed silent. Here's the verdict from the country's latest attempt to check its emergency systems.

How successful was Germany's latest 'Warning Day'?

Using so-called cell broadcast technology for the first time, all cell phone users in Germany with a German phone number were to receive a blaring emergency notification for the second Warntag (warning day). This was to test how well they would be alerted to an actual urgent situation, such as flash flooding or a blackout.

The technology sends out alerts regardless of the phone provider or if a person is signed up for them. Even if their phone is switched to silent mode, phone users receive a loud buzzing notification that’s hard to ignore.

READ ALSO: All cell phone users in Germany to be part of disaster ‘warning day’

But on Thursday at 11 am that was not the case for everyone.

According to initial information from the BKK, many Telekom customers in particular did not receive the warnings.

Another warning day is already planned for September of next year, in what will now be an annual test.

Deactivated test warnings in the phones’ system settings could also be a reason for the phones remaining silent. Many older models, such as the iPhone 6 or devices with Android 10, are also unable to use cell broadcast.

But the day was still deemed a “success”, according to BKK President Ralph Tiesler in a statement.

“According to preliminary findings, the nationwide Warning Day 2022 was a success!” said Tiesler. “The interaction of the individual systems has worked and people have become aware of the important topic of warnings. It is still too early for conclusive results. 

“We will now evaluate the feedback and thus be able to further optimize the systems. There’s still room for improvement.”

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) called the test “an important step” in improving how well people in Germany are protected in an emergency. 

People around Germany can also chime in with how well the test worked – or didn’t – using an official survey: https://warntag-umfrage.de/

Other warnings 

Even the warning apps Katwarn or NINA didn’t show an alert for all users, or only did 20 minutes past the 11am deadline.

Around Germany sirens sounded off, billboards flashed warnings at train stations and, in some communities, emergency vehicles drove through the streets broadcasting the test warning.

But some cities – including larger ones like Berlin – stayed particularly silent as they are not yet connected to a Modular Warning System. 

Berlin was also set to have 400 sirens installed by the end of 2022, although only 20 of them had been installed by August, according to the Tagesspiegel.

The importance of reliable warning systems was highlighted by the flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia in July 2021, when people were not informed in time of the impending danger. Afterwards, a broad debate arose on how this could be improved.

Amid an energy crisis and war within Europe, many people are also hypervigilant about what Germany would do in the event of a wide-reaching emergency.

For previous emergencies, local authorities have relied upon sirens, loudspeaker announcements or radio and TV bulletins to warn residents of acute danger or issue evacuation orders.

There are also smartphone apps to keep users up to date on extreme weather in their area.

But Bild newspaper condemned the “failure” to take early action during the mass flooding in 2021.

“The sirens stayed quiet in plenty of places, very few alerts were issued,” it wrote, labelling the deadly flooding that followed “a disaster for civil protection, one of the state’s most essential jobs”.

The first countywide Warning Day took place in September 2020, without cell broadcast notifications, and was widely considered an abject failure. In the aftermath of the test, authorities were criticised for failing to learn from the issues they had experienced in time for the floods in 2021. 

READ ALSO: Germany questions warning system after flood catastrophe

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