Berlin (dpa) – Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has defended the easing options for the corona lockdown as agreed with the states and is relying on progress with vaccinations and testing.
“Caution in opening up to more normalcy” is now necessary, the CDU politician said in the Bundestag on Thursday. The virus hasn’t given up yet. “But everything indicates that this will be the last spring of this pandemic.” He stressed that rapid tests are available, which should be made available as a free offer to all citizens starting next week. Sharp criticism came from the opposition.
Spahn defended the resolutions of the federal and state governments, who struggled to strike a difficult balance between the need for normality and control over the pandemic. Nobody wants restrictions per day longer than necessary. But the pandemic is “not over yet”, as evidenced by the number of infections, the situation in intensive care units and a look at the neighboring European countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the prime ministers had in effect extended the lockdown to March 28 on Wednesday. However, there should be many opening options depending on the infection situation.
Spahn said the federal government will bear the cost of free rapid tests by trained personnel for all citizens in test centers starting Monday – a week later than initially planned. The federal states had made it clear that they wanted to implement the offer on the spot pragmatically. The federal government does not have to purchase tests centrally for this, they are already available. In addition to the vaccination centers in the federal states, doctors should also be involved in vaccinations from April. “We have to get faster,” said Spahn. This is the legitimate expectation of the citizens.
The Bundestag passed a Grand Coalition law that, among other things, establishes a new three-month mechanism for parliament to establish an ‘epidemic situation of national scope’ during the Corona crisis: if the Bundestag no later than three months after it finds itself in such a situation that it continues, it should automatically be considered done away with. The Bundestag first established the “epidemic situation” on 25 March 2020 and confirmed it in November. This exceptional situation gives the federal government special powers to issue regulations, for example on tests and vaccinations, directly and without the consent of the Federal Council.
The left-wing deputy of the fraction Susanne Ferschl criticized the decisions of the federal and state governments. In view of the different opening steps in the federal states and the ever-new incidence limits, she said, “This is arbitrary and not a strategy.” After a year of pandemic, people could expect the government to “bring order to this chaos.” This included a roadmap that was passed in Parliament and a vaccination and testing strategy that was passed in the Bundestag.
Green MP Maria Klein-Schmeink said the government overslept to introduce an infection protection law that was understandable and legally safe in 12 months after the pandemic. There is no strategy for tests, vaccinations and digital contact tracking.
FDP politician Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus called the progress of the German vaccination “a shame” in international comparison. AfD MP Robby Schlund said, “We don’t need a law to continue an epidemic situation.” He campaigned for an AfD concept in which groups at risk and the sick should receive special protection. At the same time, systemically important social and economic processes must be maintained.
The SPD’s health politician, Sabine Dittmar, said the “fine line” between infection protection and relaxation can now be walked with a little more confidence. A quick test per week in schools and daycare centers, as envisioned by federal and state governments, could be just a start. “The large quantities of vaccines in stock are completely unacceptable to me.” CDU health politician Rudolf Henke pointed out that the British virus variant was gradually gaining the upper hand and that 2,800 Covid 19 patients were in intensive care. “That corresponds to the peak of the first wave in the spring of 2020.”