Coalition politicians in Germany’s CDU/SPD government won a vote in the Bundestag on Wednesday by 325 votes to 253 that gives the health ministries at federal and state level extended powers to pass executive orders aimed at containing outbreaks of coronavirus.
The emergency powers, which have been in force since March 2020, would have run out at the end of this month but have now been extended to the end of November.
The recognition of an “epidemic situation of national relevance” is a special clause in the German constitution which overrides parliamentary checks on the executive branch.
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In practise, it allows federal and state governments to order exceptional measures like compulsory mask wearing or contact restrictions that would normally be in breach of people’s constitutional rights.
“The pandemic is still not over,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn, adding that the large number of unvaccinated people in Germany meant that the government still needed special powers in order to keep outbreaks in check.
All of the opposition parties in the Bundestag voted against the extension, arguing that the vaccine campaign had calmed the situation on Germany’s intensive care stations, meaning that power should now be given back to parliament.
Manuela Rottmann of the Green party argued that the emergency laws meant that Spahn had unchecked power to spend spend billions of euros of public money. Spahn has been slammed for paying over the odds for medical masks. “Stop this bungling now,” she demanded.
The liberal Free Democrats argued that hygiene rules and other measures aimed at tackling the pandemic could be agreed upon in parliament.
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