No “Freedom Day” in Germany? Many federal states want to maintain restrictions even after March 19

This week the Bundestag wants to adopt a draft of the future Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz), the current version of which will expire on March 19. According to the plans of Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP), only “basic protection measures” such as the obligation to wear masks in nursing homes, hospitals, trains and airplanes are to apply nationwide from March 20. In addition, mandatory testing for coronavirus in nursing homes and schools is to continue.

The draft also provides for the regulation of coronavirus outbreaks, under which states can take tougher measures to combat a pandemic under certain circumstances. This has stirred controversy due to the vague definition. There is also no unanimity among government coalition politicians. Lauterbach called on the federal states to “make extensive use” of this option. Buschmann, on the other hand, presented a legal assessment that the regulation can only be applied if strict conditions are met, reported.

Bijan Djir-Sarai supports the bill. “We are returning to normality,” the FDP politician said in an interview with the Rheinische Post newspaper. He noted that at the same time, the individual federal states will retain the ability to act in case of a possible sharp deterioration of the pandemic situation.

Some Green Party and SPD politicians, however, want to maintain the obligation to wear masks in some places. Saskia Esken of the SPD has advocated the use of masks in stores, as well as the 3G rule in public transport. Green Party health politician Janosch Dahmen called for maintaining the requirement to wear masks indoors as a “basic measure of protection.”

Opposition is also being heard from individual states, which have already announced their own plans for restrictions after March 19. Prime Minister of Lower Saxony Stephan Weil (SPD) has announced a “transitional regulation” that is expected to last until early April. Health Minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) said that she will use all instruments to fight the pandemic that the federal government still leaves available starting March 20. In some areas of life, regulations mandating the wearing of masks and testing for coronavirus will continue.

Also, Brandenburg wants to maintain the restrictions and even tighten them in part. According to the new draft, which was first reported by the Bild newspaper, FFP2 masks will have to be worn in public places, hospitals and (sub)public transport, a social distance (1.5 m) will have to be kept, and access restrictions will also apply. Covering the mouth and nose and testing for coronavirus will still be required in schools, and testing will also be done in child day care centers. In restaurants and cultural institutions, the 3G rule and the requirement to wear masks will apply, sexual services will be governed by the 2G rule. For large events with more than 1,000 participants, Green Party Health Minister Ursula Nonnenmacher even wants to make the 2G plus rule mandatory; this will also continue to apply to discotheques.

The Senate of Hamburg has also already announced that the state will take advantage of the two-week transition period and only allow a relaxation of the restrictions as of April 2. This is in connection with the spring holidays, which are coming to an end. In addition, Hamburg wants to maintain some covidium restrictions even after April 2 – a decision is expected at the end of March. According to the Senate, the requirement to wear masks indoors, for example, can still be maintained.

SPD mayor of Bremen Andreas Bovenschulte called the measures in the forthcoming infection protection law “responsible”. Health Senator Claudia Bernhard (Left) considers the measures planned by the federal government to combat the pandemic “absolutely insufficient” and is critical of the failure to decide on mandatory masks indoors. In Bavaria, Prime Minister Markus Söder and his Health Minister Klaus Holetschek agree: the provisions in the draft law are too lenient. Holetschek criticized the fact that the regulation of outbreaks of infections requires a parliamentary resolution.

Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is still working on the new legislation. A special session of parliament is to be held on these regulations. In the health and care sector, the obligation to test and wear masks is still to be maintained.

Schools as a bone of contention

There is still much controversy over the conduct of schools and day care centers. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Culture of the Länder (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) is in favor of relaxing the rules. According to a resolution passed by this body on Friday, pandemic restrictions on children and adolescents should be lifted by May at the latest. This is to apply to both the wearing of masks and testing if there is no clear reason for it, said KMK chairwoman, Schleswig-Holstein Education Minister Karin Prien (CDU). However, resistance is still visible in the federal states. Berlin politicians from the SPD and the Left Party are demanding that the obligation to wear masks in schools be written into the Infection Protection Act as a “special measure” and can be introduced by the federal states.

Some federal states have already abolished the obligation to wear masks in schools or are planning to do so. In Hesse and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, students no longer have to wear masks in lessons, also in Saxony the obligation to wear masks in all schools has been dropped. In primary and special schools in Nadren-Pfalz this has been the case since Monday; in all other schools the obligation is to be abolished on March 21. Elementary school students will still be tested for coronavirus, but twice a week instead of three times as before.

Also in Bremen on Monday, the requirement to wear masks in elementary school was lifted. For older pupils, the requirement will continue until the Easter holidays. Compulsory testing in schools and day care centers is to be maintained until the end of April, after which testing is to be done only occasionally if there is a reason to do so. In contrast, the premiers of the states of Bavaria, Brandenburg and Netherlands North-Westphalia are not planning to abolish the obligation to wear masks in schools.


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