The federal government considers it possible to block areas. “The Federal Chancellor and the Prime Ministers noted months ago that there could also be restrictions on mobility in and out of the particularly affected areas as the most extensive measure,” said Chancellor Helge Braun (CDU) of the “Rheinische Post”.
Vice-government spokeswoman Martina Fietz had previously described restrictions on entry and exit “from a purely epidemiological point of view” as a way of preventing the virus from spreading. The aim is to “maintain as much as possible of public and private life”. A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior was reluctant to comment on the RKI initiative. There are “no concrete scenarios” for a deployment of the Federal Police in the event of lockdowns.
The issue is assessed differently in the parliamentary groups in the Bundestag. “I do not think it is out of the question that interventions in the freedom of movement and freedom of movement may be necessary again if the health system is overloaded,” said the legal policy spokesman for the SPD parliamentary group, Johannes Fechner, to the Handelsblatt.
The prerequisites for when the government may order this would have to be specified by parliament. “We are dealing here with massive encroachments on fundamental rights,” emphasized Fechner. A strict proportionality standard must be applied. “Above all, this means that no milder means may be available.”
Contradiction comes from within the Union. “From my point of view, the cordoning off of entire cities or regions is unconstitutional and also makes no sense,” said the CDU domestic politician Patrick Sensburg, the Handelsblatt. “It is expedient to comply with and control the existing quarantine rules.” New measures are not needed if only the current ones are implemented consistently. “Here, however, all federal states and municipalities must also fulfill the tasks that they have.”
The CDU health politician Tino Sorge, however, did not rule out the closure of certain regions as a “last resort”. “We should only discuss blocking hotspots as a last resort if human life cannot be protected in any other way,” Sorge told the Handelsblatt. However, he also emphasized: “Alarmism and overbidding competition for potentially conceivable measures do not help to improve the situation.” Most people already limited their travels today.
Wieler had justified his advance with the aggravated corona situation. Nine months ago, he could not have thought of locking off corona hotspots. “I can now imagine that such measures would be carried out,” said Wieler on Thursday the television station Phoenix. “If the measures are not tightened, the number of infections will continue to rise,” warned the RKI boss and named a number of up to 10,000 new infections daily. “Mobility is one of the drivers of this pandemic,” said Wieler.
CSU: RKI boss should substantiate the proposal
As if to confirm, Wieler’s authorities reported a new high on Friday with 7334 new infections within one day. It was only on Thursday that the authority recorded an all-time high since the outbreak of the pandemic with 6638 cases.
The FDP member of the Bundestag Konstantin Kuhle spoke of the “half-baked” proposals of the RKI boss that made many citizens “afraid”. “The drivers of the pandemic currently seem to be meetings in the private sector,” he told the Handelsblatt. It makes sense to cap and limit these. “A blanket restriction on mobility makes no sense at the moment, especially if it is announced in an interview without specific standards and criteria.”
The CSU internal politician Volker Ulrich also sees the RKI President Wieler’s duty to explain in such a proposal what he means by “locking off” risk areas and which authorities should implement such a measure with what means. From his point of view, closure is “neither an appropriate and certainly not a proportionate measure”.
The Greens were skeptical. “It is good and right to discuss all scenarios at an early stage, to weigh them carefully and on the basis of facts in order to then be able to make necessary and proportionate decisions,” said parliamentary group vice-president Konstantin von Notz. In order to achieve the necessary acceptance, however, Parliament and the public would have to be involved “as best as possible”.
“Mobility remains a key factor,” added von Notz. Therefore, everyone should think carefully about “which personal travel activities we can do without in favor of our solidary community in view of the current situation” – also in order to be able to jointly avert “extremely far-reaching” restrictions on freedom and encroachments on fundamental rights.
Bavaria lifts the ban on accommodation, Hesse is planning the same
In view of the escalating situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the Prime Minister decided on new restrictions at a crisis meeting in Berlin on Wednesday evening in order to get the infection numbers under control again. However, the measures have already been legally attacked – with success in some federal states.
In Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony, administrative judges declared the controversial ban on accommodation to be illegal on Thursday. Other countries lifted a corresponding regulation of their own accord. In Bavaria, the ban expires this Friday. In Hesse, the planned abolition of the ban on accommodation is on the agenda for the meeting of the Corona cabinet on Monday. In Berlin, where the ban does not exist, the administrative court overturned the curfew for bars, pubs and restaurants from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
According to the Speyer constitutional lawyer Joachim Wieland, blocking off risk areas would not be constitutionally ruled out. It is indeed a “very drastic encroachment on freedom”, but it would be “constitutional as a last resort if there is a really great danger to life and health”.
The measure is also not out of thin air. It is already practiced in Spain. In view of the high corona numbers, the country’s government recently imposed a state of emergency on Madrid. In this way, the closure of the capital should be enforced against the will of the regional government.
Controls on the highway
In Spain, the Corona hotspot Madrid has already been cordoned off.
Gabriel Felbermayr, head of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), named Asia and, above all, China, where the sealing off of hotspots has proven itself in order to curb the spread of the virus quickly. “But it is a much more draconian measure than a ban on accommodation, and enforcement, as the example of Asia shows, requires greater use of resources, and potentially even police operations,” Felbermayr told Handelsblatt.
“Not an easy task for political decision-makers”
From an economic point of view, however, “targeted closures” are probably better than general travel restrictions because they concentrate the adjustment costs on the geographical areas in which the infection rate is strongest. “This would create the right incentives to do everything locally to reduce the incidence,” he said.
But you have to think very carefully about the definition of hotspots: “It would probably have to be municipalities, not districts, and whether the critical incidence rate should be 50 cases per week and 100,000 inhabitants is also unclear,” he said.
Ifo President Clemens Fuest, in turn, believes that the economic impact would depend on what exactly “lockdown” means. “When it comes to restricting non-professional travel for a limited time, the economic consequences are likely to be manageable, but a complete closure for passenger traffic would have high economic costs,” he said.
In addition, politicians must consider the general consequences for consumer and producer confidence: “The lockdown would be a signal that the crisis is worsening significantly. In my opinion, this should only be done if the yield in terms of containing the epidemic is sufficiently high, ”he emphasized. This weighing is difficult and must be made on the basis of very incomplete information. This is “not an easy task for the political decision-makers”.
DIW President Marcel Fratzscher already fears that this consideration can only go wrong. “The success of corona measures depends first and foremost on their acceptance by people,” he told Handelsblatt.
Blocking off hotspots could not only be ineffective, but in the worst case even counterproductive if many citizens did not accept this and therefore opposed the entire strategy and other political measures. “Examples such as Spain and France show that tougher restrictions do not have to lead to a better limitation of the wave of infections in the long term.” Fratzscher therefore considers the sealing off of hotspots to be a “dangerous experiment”.
The Association of Towns and Municipalities considers it unrealistic to systematically cordon off entire hotspot regions in order to restrict mobility. General manager Gerd Landsberg spoke of “theoretical” considerations by the RKI boss that “generate additional fear”.
“What we need now is not fear, but prudence and discipline of all citizens,” said Landsberg. “It would therefore be important to have a communication campaign, not just in the hotspots, in order to repeatedly point out the need to comply with the rules via social media.” Landsberg emphasized that the key to fighting a pandemic lies in convincing people.
More: “Economically extremely expensive” – The fear of the second lockdown