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.
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.
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.
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."