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Germany’s new coalition government ‘thwarted Merkel plan for two-week lockdown’

Germany’s new government thwarted a plan by outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel to put in place a two-week Austria-style national lockdown, German tabloid Bild reported on Wednesday.

Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa POOL | Michael Kappeler
Germany's outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and incoming Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa POOL | Michael Kappeler

One of Germany’s new ‘traffic light’ coalition government’s first actions was to overrule a plan by the government of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel to put in place an immediate two-week lockdown. 

Merkel put forth the proposal on Tuesday evening, and according to Bild the lockdown would have applied from Thursday onwards. It was however knocked back by the incoming government, who said it would have been interpreted by the public as a “bad political trick” in tandem by the old and the new government, Bild reported on Wednesday afternoon

Citing several sources close to the government, Bild said Merkel wanted to cut rising infection rates through a ‘handbrake’ style national lockdown, which would have included closures of bars, restaurants and shops. 

READ ALSO: LATEST: Germany’s next government sets out roadmap for post-Merkel era

Like Austria’s lockdown, which came into effect on Monday, November 22nd, the measure would have applied not only to the unvaccinated, but also to those who have been vaccinated against Covid or who have recently recovered from the virus. 

Germany’s new Infection Protection Act came into effect on Wednesday, which prevents such a nationwide lockdown and instead places greater responsibility on Germany’s 16 federal states. 

Therefore, the new act restricts the current government’s power to put in place a nationwide lockdown should it be deemed necessary and will require agreement from the states should harsher measures be adopted. 

Covid cases have been surging in Germany in recent days, hitting record heights. 

Several parts of the country, primarily in the heavily-hit south, have put in place restrictive measures including stay at home orders and requiring restaurants to close. 

READ ALSO: UPDATE: European countries ‘must act urgently’ amid worsening Covid outlook

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POLITICS

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

Germany will reinstate its so-called debt brake in 2023 after suspending it for three years to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, sources in the finance ministry said Wednesday.

Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The government will borrow 17.2 billion euros ($18.1 million) next year, adhering to the rule enshrined in the constitution that normally limits

Germany’s public deficit to 0.35 percent of overall annual economic output, despite new spending as a result of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the sources said.

The new borrowing set out in a draft budget to be presented to the cabinet on Friday is almost 10 billion euros higher than a previous figure for 2023 announced in April.

However, “despite a considerable increase in costs, the debt brake will be respected,” one of the sources said.

Although Germany is traditionally a frugal nation, the government broke its own debt rules at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and unleashed vast financial aid to steer the economy through the crisis.

READ ALSO: Debt-averse Germany to take on new borrowings to soften pandemic blow

The government has this year unveiled a multi-billion-euro support package to help companies in Europe’s biggest economy weather the fallout from the Ukraine war and sanctions against Russia.

Berlin has also spent billions to diversify its energy supply to reduce its dependence on Russia, as well as investing heavily in plans to tackle climate change and push digital technology.

But despite the additional spending, Finance Minister Christian Lindner has maintained the aim to reinstate the debt brake in 2023.

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