Given the current situation, Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to bring the meeting with the Prime Minister forward. It should take place on Tuesday, said government spokesman Steffen Seibert – and not on January 25, as originally planned.
Merkel had previously received support from the country leaders to bring the talks forward. Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) said on Thursday evening on the ZDF program “Maybritt Illner” that he was expecting a meeting in the coming week. Malu Dreyer, Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, remarked on this Friday morning in the ZDF morning magazine that she would have pleaded to meet earlier anyway.
The discussion about tightening the measures is gaining momentum in politics; more and more proposals – old and new – are being debated.
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Read an overview of the current status of the discussion here:
1. Completely close schools and kindergartens
Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer believes that significantly tougher restrictions are necessary. On ZDF, he advocated shutting down kindergartens “completely” and closing schools. This would mean that the facilities would only offer emergency care for parents in systemically important professions. This corresponds to the regulation in the first lockdown in spring 2020. However, emergency care in schools could also be further restricted
In addition, the measures in the individual federal states are already different. While in North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, in principle all pupils should study from home by January 31st, provided they are not in emergency care, in Saxony, for example, pupils in the final year should attend school again from January 18th.
2. Increase the protection of nursing homes
Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer suggests “entry bans” unless there is a negative rapid test. In Berlin, Health Senator Dilek Kalayci (SPD) announced on Thursday that residents may not receive any more visitors for the time being if a corona case occurs in the facility. A large proportion of the people who died from or with Corona lived in old people’s and nursing homes.
People are particularly at risk due to their age and possible previous illnesses. Nevertheless, measures like those in Berlin are controversial. Critics point out how important contact with relatives is for residents.
3. Send more employees to the home office
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil became clear in an interview with the Handelsblatt: That employees should work from home wherever possible is “not just any appeal, but a very clear message from the federal and state governments to the economy,” said the SPD Politician. As long as people take buses and trains to the office or factory, there is a risk that they will infect themselves or others while they are on the way or at work.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier is therefore addressing employers and employees again this Friday in a joint appeal with employer President Rainer Dulger and DGB boss Reiner Hoffmann to switch to the home office even more than before.
A legal obligation is not so easily possible. Although the pandemic could justify interference with the employer’s right to determine the place of work, the director of the Institute for Labor Law and Social Security Law at the University of Bonn, Gregor Thüsing, told Handelsblatt.
“But proportionality must be maintained.” In other words, as long as the hygiene regulations at the workplace can also be complied with by other means, the employer cannot ban employees to their homes. “Home office cannot be mandatory for ventilation, distance and mask at the workplace,” said Thüsing.
4. Restrict local public transport
So far, it is unclear what restrictions will be imposed on local public transport. The President of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, sees an urgent need for action here. He justified this with the fact that the population restricts their mobility significantly less than in the first lockdown in spring. On Sundays in December, for example, it was shown that people were out and about much more often than in spring.
The first tougher measures are already emerging in politics. “The local public transport, not so many people are allowed to ride. From my point of view, that is the order of the day, ”said Saxony’s Prime Minister Kretschmer. The “Bild” newspaper reported that the Chancellery was thinking about stopping local and long-distance public transport. CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak denied the report.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert emphasized that it was about fewer contacts in local public transport. “What it doesn’t mean is: to stop public transport.”
Criticism of such considerations comes from the opposition. “More than half of the employees cannot work from home, should they sit even closer in the public transport?” Tweeted the deputy chairman of the left-wing parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Susanne Ferschl. Either you expand the clocking or you really have to shut down operations. “Wash me, but don’t get me wet” doesn’t work, says Ferschl.
5. Close entire businesses
The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach urged the companies to do their part to bring the lockdown to a successful end. “Otherwise we may at some point be forced to shut down factories too. We might even have to approach industrial production, ”he told the newspapers of the Funke media group. But nobody could want that.
The Association of the Chemical Industry (VCI) and the Federal Chemical Employers’ Association (BAVC) clearly opposed such mental games.
Since the chemical-pharmaceutical industry is making key contributions to containing the pandemic – in vaccine production, the manufacture of essential drugs or as the most important upstream supplier for diagnostics, medical and laboratory equipment manufacturers – such a measure would considerably weaken the fight against corona, according to a press release of the two associations. In addition, the closure of factories is not economically justifiable for the industrial nation of Germany.
6. Stricter contact rules
After research by the business magazine “Business Insider”, the Chancellery is examining a tightening of the Corona contact rules. Accordingly, for an as yet indefinite period of time, only meetings with a permanent person outside of one’s own household should be allowed, according to government circles. So far: You can only meet one person privately and publicly, but you can do that with friends from different households.
This one-friend rule could then become the one-friend rule. How this could be implemented in practice is unclear. The reaction of the countries according to “Business Insider”: “That’s rubbish”.
7. Force vaccination
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Prime Minister Manuela Schwesig (SPD) calls for more speed in vaccination. It is of no use if the supply only improves in the second quarter, said the SPD politician on ZDF. However, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) had dampened the hope that high numbers could be available very quickly. Nevertheless, things are progressing: “Today we have 840,000 people vaccinated in Germany,” he said on Thursday. “The first percent of the population is vaccinated.”
This goes hand in hand with the discussion about a possible vaccination requirement for certain groups. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Söder had brought the nursing staff into play to counter the low willingness of the group. Health Minister Jens Spahn rejected this. “There will be no compulsory vaccination in this pandemic,” says the CDU politician.
8. Curb the spread of the mutation
“We need more test sites that can recognize the mutation”, demands Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) in the newspapers of the Funke media group. Health Minister Spahn had announced that he wanted to counter the mutation with further entry restrictions and tests. In addition, this week it will be decreed that a lot more research will be carried out into the extent to which mutations occur.
9. Obligation to wear an FFP2 mask
Bavaria has shown the way: In the Free State, from January 18, it is mandatory to wear an FFP2 mask in public transport and when shopping. “Compared to all the holey scarves, some of which are there, and community masks worn for around eight months that you can find in public transport, an FFP2 mask is a clear improvement in every respect,” Prime Minister Söder justified his decision.
After initial criticism, masks are now also to be made available free of charge for those in need. The prices for masks had already risen after Söder’s announcement. Such a duty could also be extended to the federal government. However, experts emphasize that the availability of the masks and the correct handling are essential.
The President of the Society for Aerosol Research, Christof Asbach, warned against misconceptions regarding the safety of FFP2 masks. These would not offer 100% protection even if they were worn perfectly, Asbach told the German press agency.
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