German governors press to keep nationwide pandemic rules

Oct 21, 2021, 5:30 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2021, 5:31 am

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s state governors pressed Friday for a nationwide legal framework for coronavirus rules to be kept in place after the outgoing health minister suggested that the current legislation should be allowed to expire next month.

The call came as official figures over several days pointed to an acceleration in new COVID-19 infections. As of Friday, 95.1 cases per 100,000 residents had been reported over the last seven days, up from 68.7 a week ago. Over the past 24 hours, 19,572 new infections were reported.

The German parliament first passed legislation declaring an “epidemic situation of national scope” after the pandemic hit the country in March 2020, and it has been extended several times since. The law has served as a key legal basis for restrictions such as lockdowns.

Health Minister Jens Spahn argued on Monday for the legislation to be allowed to lapse when the current extension ends on Nov. 25. But he isn’t calling for a move to drop nearly all restrictions, like England’s “Freedom Day” in July. Instead, Spahn argues that rules restricting access to some indoor facilities to people who are vaccinated, tested or have recovered should stay, as should mask-wearing rules.

Although state governments have the authority to impose their own rules, governors said at a regular meeting that some kind of national framework is needed, as winter approaches, to avoid a patchwork of measures across the country of 83 million.

Governors agreed that “we shouldn’t take any risk,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller said. “We still need a nationwide basis, a legal framework that the federal parliament offers.”

That could be an extension of the current legislation, a transitional arrangement or a decision setting out individual measures that can be taken, he said.

Germany is in a political transition following an election last month. The center-right party of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spahn isn’t expected to be part of its new government.

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German governors press to keep nationwide pandemic rules