Germany’s SPD wants ‘new legal basis’ for winter Covid rules

A sign on a shop window informs visitors to wear masks
A sign on a shop window informs visitors that masks are mandatory. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Robert Michael
As Germany mulls lifting its pandemic emergency powers in November, the Social Democrats (SPD) are in talks with their potential coalition partners to enshrine Covid protection measures in law.

The ‘pandemic state of emergency’, which is due to expire on November 25th, has until now been the basis of measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and social distancing on a federal level.

Through a special clause in the German constitution, these special powers allow the federal and state governments to order anti-Covid measures without the approval of parliaments.

With talks underway about letting this legislation expire, the Social Democrats (SPD) are speaking with possible future coalition partners about placing new Covid regulations in the Infection Protection Act, SPD parliamentary party leader Rolf Mützenich confirmed on Monday.

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As of Monday, Germany’s 7-day incidence of Covid infections had jumped to 110 per 100,000 people – an increase of around 60 percent on the previous week’s figure of 74.4. 

In comments made before parliamentary group meeting, Mützenich referred to Germany’s spiralling infection rates, but said the SPD would not be aiming to extend the “epidemic situation of national importance” by another three months.

Instead, the centre-left party want to introduce new regulations as part of the Infection Protection Act that would enable the states to respond to these challenges in the future, he said. 

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Furthermore, the Infection Protection Act should also be amended in other places during the next legislative period, Mützenich explained. The pandemic has shown that there is a “need for improvement” in the country’s infection protection regulations.

Ralph Brinkhaus, leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, said that the CDU/CSU would discuss how to proceed and still had to gather information before deciding on whether to scrap the pandemic emergency powers or replace them.

He pointed out that from Tuesday onwards, the CDU/CSU and SPD government is only in office in a caretaker capacity until a new coalition government is formed. The SPD is currently in talks with the Free Democrats (FDP) and Greens to form a new ‘traffic light’ coalition, named after each of the party’s colours.

Ralf Brinkhaus, head of CDU parliamentary group
Ralph Brinkhaus, head of the CDU parliamentary group, gives a statement ahead of a parliamentary meeting on October 25th, 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Michael Kappeler

That means the ball is now in the court of the ‘traffic light’ to decide on a new legal basis for Covid rules, Brinkhaus said. However, he said, the CDU/CSU would not refuse to engage in good talks in the interest of infection control.

The Bundestag first declared an “epidemic situation of national importance” in March 2020 and has extended it regularly ever since. It last extended the legislation for another three months at the end of August.

It will automatically expire at the end of November if the Bundestag does not vote to extend it again. According to the current Infection Protection Act, the epidemic situation clause is a basis for new laws such as mandatory masks, social distancing, contact restrictions Covid health pass entry rules or vaccine procurement.

Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has recently called for the “epidemic situation” to expire, though he wants protective measures like the Covid health pass and wearing masks to continue throughout autumn and winter.


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