German constitutional court rules partial lockdown lawful

Germany's constitutional court ruled Tuesday that sweeping restrictions to stem coronavirus infections such as curfews, school closures and contact restrictions were lawful, in a decision that could pave the way for further curbs.

Chairs stacked at a restaurant/cafe in Dresden during Covid restrictions in April 2021.
Chairs stacked at a restaurant/cafe in Dresden during Covid restrictions in April 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

The verdict came hours before Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to meet with her designated successor, Olaf Scholz, as well as regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states on whether to toughen up restrictions to tame raging infections.

Helge Braun, Merkel’s chief of staff, told the RTL broadcaster the court decision would show “which of two paths we should go down”.

READ ALSO: German leaders to discuss tougher Covid restrictions

The meeting, due to be held remotely, comes amid a record wave of infections in Germany.

The country recorded 45,753 new infections on Tuesday and 388 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute health agency.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Covid incidence falls slightly – but cases expected to rise

Hospitals have long been sounding the alarm, with many already over capacity and sending patients to other parts of Germany.

To tame the surge, Europe’s biggest economy has over the last weeks began requiring people to prove they are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid 19 or have recently tested negative before they can travel on public transport or enter workplaces.

Several of the worst-hit areas have gone further, cancelling large events like Christmas markets and barring the unvaccinated from bars, gyms and leisure facilities.

But with infections shooting to new records day after day, calls have grown louder for further curbs.

‘Lockdown for the unvaccinated’

Germany’s vice-chancellor-in-waiting Robert Habeck on Tuesday called for tougher restrictions to slow the spread of the disease.

“What has to happen is absolutely clear: contacts must be reduced,” the co-leader of the Green party said, also calling for unvaccinated people to be banned from “all public facilities” apart from essential shops.

“We will need new uniform measures to get through the winter,” Habeck said, also urging Germany’s federal states to apply the “range of options” they already have, such as cancelling Christmas markets.

“This is then – it must be said so harshly – a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” he said.

Member comments

  1. I hope a fireworks ban is imposed this year.

    Frontliners do not need the additional stress and the environment certainly needs a break.

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Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”