Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDRE MALERBA
Picture: BLOOMBERG/ANDRE MALERBA

The three parties in talks to form the next German government have agreed on a package of measures to tackle the latest surge in Covid-19 cases which seeks to avoid sweeping restrictions such as school closures and curfews.

The legislation, which the SPD, Greens and FDP want to push through parliament next week, is designed to provide a nationwide framework and will replace a law that expires on November 25. The measures — many of which are already being deployed — include distancing and hygiene rules, obligatory mask wearing and some restrictions for public events and travel.

“We’re sending a signal that we’re taking responsibility,” SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil said on Tuesday in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. “We’re looking to provide legal certainty and bring this country through a difficult period.”

MPs from the three parties decided to let the existing legislation lapse and draw up a new framework due to concerns that some of the measures previously agreed interfered too severely with citizen rights and potentially conflicted with Germany’s constitution.

Germany’s seven-day incidence rate continued to rise on Monday, climbing to a record 213.7, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute. Cases are surging across Europe, leading to fears that the continent will be forced into another damaging lockdown.

German health minister Jens Spahn has described the latest situation as “a massive pandemic of the unvaccinated”, while chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that hospitals in some hotspots are coming under increasing pressure.

Spahn has led the calls for more people to get their Covid-19 shots. By Monday, 67% of the population were fully vaccinated, and 70% had received at least one dose.

Spahn and regional counterparts last week agreed to push for booster shots for all adults, and Spahn said that bolstering protection after six months of being fully inoculated “should be the rule, not the exception”.

‘Regional differences’

Michael Mueller, the SPD mayor of Berlin, said that he and fellow regional leaders are likely to meet Merkel and Spahn “in the coming week” to co-ordinate policy.

Some of Germany’s 16 states where infection rates are higher, including Bavaria and Saxony, have already tightened measures more than other regions.

“There will always be regional differences because even when the numbers are generally rising we are seeing that some states are in a better position than others,” Mueller said.

All the measures that Germany needs to fight the virus — beyond the vaccine campaign — will be contained in the new legislation, he said.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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