(Corrected first sentence: Bundestag and Bundesrat)
BERLIN (dpa-AFX) – The Bundestag and Bundesrat paved the way for the changes planned by the grand coalition in the Infection Protection Act on Wednesday. In the Bundestag, 415 MPs voted for the reform on Wednesday in order to put the corona measures on a more precise legal basis in the future. 236 voted against, 8 abstained from the roll-call vote. Subsequently, in a special session of the Federal Council, the majority of the federal states also approved the so-called third civil protection law. It can come into force after it has been issued by Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and published in the Federal Law Gazette.
When several thousand participants protested against the change in the law and the state’s corona policy near the Bundestag, on Wednesday, parallel to the debate in parliament, there were disputes with the police and the use of water cannons. The police also spoke of more than 100 arrests.
UNION AND SPD DEFEND LAW
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn defended the corona restrictions in the debate and campaigned for further confidence in the crisis management. Rising numbers of infections sooner or later lead to increasing suffering in the intensive care units and to a loss of control, said the CDU politician. Spahn also campaigned for the law in the Federal Council. The SPD health politician Brbel Bas rejected fears in the Bundestag that the reform of the Infection Protection Act would expand powers for federal and state governments. “Just the opposite is the case,” she said.
AFD FAILS WITH SHIFT
At the start of the debate, the AfD had initially tried to take the subject off the agenda, but failed because of the unanimous resistance of the other groups. The parliamentary managing director of the AfD parliamentary group, Bernd Baumann, said: “Today’s bill is an authorization for the government in a way that has not existed since historical times”. MEPs from the other political groups rejected the allegations. The parliamentary managing director of the SPD faction, Carsten Schneider, said the AfD was playing with the comparison with the Enabling Act of 1933. “They not only discredit our democracy, they make it contemptible,” he emphasized.
CONCERNING THE OPPOSITION
Speakers from the FDP, Greens and Left Party criticized the reform of the Infection Protection Act. The planned new regulations do not give the governments any guard rails, but rather issued them “a free ticket”, said FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Lindner. It is a fundamental democratic question that governments should never decide on such massive encroachments on fundamental and civil rights, said the parliamentary director of the Left, Jan Korte.
LAW IS TO SPECIFY CORONA MEASURES
The aim of the law – officially the “third civil protection law” – is, among other things, to legally substantiate corona measures that have been issued by ordinance and to specifically set them down. So far, the Infection Protection Act has only generally spoken of “necessary protective measures” which the “competent authority” can take. With the amendment to the law, a new paragraph will be inserted that specifically lists the possible protective measures of state governments and authorities, such as distance requirements, exit and contact restrictions or restrictions in the cultural and leisure area – essentially measures that were already taken during the lockdown in the spring and in some cases also now apply to partial lockdown in November.
The law also stipulates the so-called 7-day incidence of 35 and 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants per week, from which protective measures should be taken. It is also stipulated that statutory ordinances with corona protective measures are limited in time to four weeks. However, extensions are possible. In addition, the regulations must be given a general justification.
NEW RULES FOR LOSS OF INCOME
The law also provides for new rules for loss of earnings. For example, compensation entitlements are to be extended and expanded until March 2021 for parents who cannot work because of childcare. Anyone who makes an “avoidable trip” to foreign risk areas, on the other hand, should not receive any compensation for loss of earnings for a quarantine after returning. The federal government should also be able to regulate that uninsured persons are also entitled to vaccinations and tests. Hospitals that suspend operations should receive financial compensation.
The Infection Protection Act had already been reformed several times in the wake of the corona pandemic. Right at the beginning of the spring, it was introduced that the Bundestag can determine an epidemic situation of national importance. The Bundestag did this immediately, giving the Federal Ministry of Health special powers to issue statutory ordinances without the Bundesrat having to consent. Normally, government ordinances require a yes from the regional chamber