According to media reports on Wednesday, the parties are keen to introduce new legislation if the “epidemic situation of national importance” is allowed to expire on November 25th.
This legislation would enable states to continue enforcing rules like restricted entry policies to public spaces, mandatory masks and social distancing in the absence of the emergency powers.
The news comes amid rapidly rising infection rates in Germany. On Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported that the 7-day incidence of Covid infections had jumped to 118 per 100,000 residents – an increase of around 75 percent on last week’s figure of 80.
Meanwhile, more than 23,000 new infections were reported within a day.
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Green Party parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt, SPD parliamentary deputy Dirk Wiese and FDP parliamentary group manager Marco Buschmann aired their proposals for handling the ongoing Covid crisis on Wednesday morning.
The three parties are currently in talks to form a ‘traffic light’ coalition – named after each of the party colours – which they hope will be governing Germany by mid-December.
On Monday, SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich had told reporters that the potential coalition partners were already in talks about how to manage the pandemic in the difficult winter months.
Changes could be made to Infection Protection Act to allow each of Germany’s state governments to respond to the challenges of the pandemic going forward, he said.
‘State of emergency must not become permanent’
However, none of the three parties hoping to form the country’s next government are in favour of extending the so-called ‘epidemic situation’ clause, which has until now been the basis of most Covid rules and regulations.
The epidemic situation has been in place since March 2020 to allow states to manage the Covid crisis, though in recent days parties have been discussing allowing it to expire in November – a move Health Secretary Jens Spahn is in favour of.
“The state of emergency must not become a permanent state,” FDP Secretary General Volker Wissing told the Funke Media Group on Wednesday. “We must come to a new normality, and as quickly as possible.”
Dirk Wiese, vice-chairman of the SPD parliamentary group, said that despite the current increase in the number of infections, the situation is now different from what it was in August, when the emergency powers were last extended.
In view of increased vaccination coverage, there is no longer a serious threat to health to the entire German population – though it is still too soon for a UK-style “freedom day”, he said.
New Covid legislation
According to AFP, the ‘traffic light’ parties instead want to make changes to the Infection Protection Act that would remain in force until March 20th, 2022.
Through these amendments, state governments would have the power to introduce a number of anti-Covid measures including mandatory masks and restricted access to public spaces and events through the so-called ‘3G’ (vaccination and recovery certificates and tests) or ‘2G (vaccination or recovery certificates only) rules.
They would also have the power to mandate social distancing requirements – primarily in indoor public spaces – as well as the processing of customers’ contact data and regulations such as testing and masks in schools.
Furthermore, the parties are likely to extend the pandemic-related changes to child benefits “into the year 2022”, AFP reports. This regulation provides for 30 instead of the usual ten child sick days for parents, and twice as many for single parents.
According to the report, the parties will also put forward plans to increase Germany’s faltering vaccination rate. As of Wednesday, almost two-thirds (66.4 percent) of the population were fully vaccinated, while 69.2 percent had received at least one dose.