How should Germany prepare for a possibly larger corona wave after the summer? The FDP in particular wanted to wait for an expert opinion. That comes now – but does it also provide the desired answers?
The struggle for the Corona course in autumn is entering the next round: Today, a commission of experts is presenting an evaluation of previous state restrictions.
The traffic light coalition has agreed to wait for the scientific assessment before deciding on possible further everyday requirements for autumn – a more critical pandemic situation is then expected. The health ministers of the federal states want to position themselves at a special conference this afternoon.
Follow-up arrangements for the fall
Scientists from various disciplines belong to the expert committee, which is made up of half each from the Federal Government and the Bundestag. Above all, the evaluation is intended to highlight the specifications in the context of the “epidemic situation of national importance”. This situation, determined by the Bundestag according to the Infection Protection Act, lasted for several months until the end of November 2021 and made it possible to close numerous facilities and meet everyday requirements.
The committee had already signaled that no “full evaluation of all measures” was to be carried out by the end of June. In addition, expectations had been dampened that there would be concrete recommendations to politicians. In the coalition, however, the FDP in particular insisted on the evaluation as a prerequisite for further steps. A follow-up regulation must be found for autumn because the corona provisions in the Infection Protection Act, which were severely reduced in spring, expire on September 23 as the nationwide legal basis.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) wants to receive the report in the afternoon. He had announced that he and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) were aiming for the cornerstones of a regulation for the fall before the summer break – they could then be decided after the summer. The Bundestag will take a break on July 8th and will meet again in the week beginning September 5th. Lauterbach and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) had made it clear that it was important to have the right “winter tires” ready for the fall. Since the beginning of April, most of the government regulations have been dropped in everyday life – regardless of this, there are mask requirements in cultural institutions, for example.
Göring-Eckardt (Greens) criticizes the FDP
The Union worries about the schedule. The CDU health expert Tino Sorge described it as sporty in the “Augsburger Allgemeine” to want to decide on the new regulations for the fall essentially after the summer break. Sorge spoke out against far-reaching cuts in personal freedom to contain the virus. “Renewed encroachments on fundamental rights such as nationwide lockdowns or the closure of schools and daycare centers must be avoided in the future,” said Sorge.
Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt reproached the FDP for the schedule. “I don’t think it’s particularly responsible in the fight against a pandemic to wait for an expert opinion so that you don’t have to do anything for the time being,” said the Green politician of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. It would have been a good idea to present at least the key points for a draft law before the summer break. “My greatest concern is that we will again find ourselves in a situation in which things are being put on the table in a hectic manner,” said Göring-Eckardt.
The medical officers are calling for the Infection Protection Act to be as far-reaching as possible. “A lockdown must also be possible as one of the last instruments,” said the chairman of the Federal Association of Physicians in the Public Health Service, Johannes Nießen, to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “In an absolute emergency, the state governments must be able to quickly close businesses and schools again,” he added.
New regulation for citizen tests polarized
The expert committee on the previous corona measures should not be confused with the expert council of the federal government, which has already submitted several statements on pending decisions. There was a fuss about the committee after the head of virology at the Charité Berlin, Christian Drosten, announced his retirement at the end of April. One of the reasons given was that, from his point of view, the equipment and composition of the committee were not sufficient to be able to guarantee a high-quality evaluation. At the suggestion of the Union, virologist Klaus Stöhr replaced Drosten.
There is a new adversity for Minister of Health Lauterbach in the new regulation of the citizen tests. Since Thursday they have only been free for risk groups and other exceptional cases. Otherwise, an additional payment of three euros will be due. The Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians announced in a letter that became known on Thursday evening that they “will no longer be able to bill and pay out citizen tests in the future”.
The chairman of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, called for the citizen tests to be stopped completely. “These nonsensical tests must be abolished. They are far too expensive, the bureaucracy is huge and the epidemiological significance is zero, »said Gassen of the «Bild» newspaper (Friday). It was a “completely pointless event to test healthy people with questionable quality without cause,” emphasized the KBV boss. However, PCR tests in patients with symptoms are important in order to clearly demonstrate corona infections.
RKI: Infection rates are picking up
Lauterbach defended the new regulation on “RTL direct”. Tests would now be more meaningful. A spokesman for the ministry said in response to the announcement by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians that it is assumed that, as public bodies, they will continue to fulfill their mandate for billing and random testing of the test centers. “In a dialogue, we will discuss with the KVs at short notice how the new rules can be implemented in an unbureaucratic manner,” said a spokesman.
In the meantime, the Robert Koch Institute reports in its new weekly report that the infection process is picking up momentum. In the nationwide seven-day incidence, there was an increase of 38 percent in the past week compared to the previous week. There is also a clear increase in the number of outbreaks in old people’s and nursing homes and in the number of people with Covid-19 treated in intensive care units. The more contagious omicron subline BA.5 has already reached a 66 percent share, according to the weekly report.