Not even in Lichtenfels in Upper Franconia, people have to worry about whether they will soon be slowed down again at private meetings, while shopping, visiting restaurants or late evening walks – by the so-called federal emergency brake.
The district in Northern Bavaria is currently the nationwide front runner with an incidence of 46.4 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days – but it is still well below the 100 mark, from which the “emergency brake” takes effect and numerous restrictions apply to step.
Now the “Federal Emergency Brake” expires this Wednesday, without replacement. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) regrets this and has already announced that the restriction of freedom of movement could be reactivated at any time in a possible fourth wave if the number of infections increases.
“Should something develop through mutations that we all don’t hope, then we can reactivate it at any time,” Merkel declared at the end of May in Berlin about the “federal emergency brake”. For this, however, a new law would have to be made, for which there are currently hardly any supporters in the Bundestag or in the federal states. In the case of cities and municipalities, however, it does.
“The emergency brake could still have applied”
“If the number of infections rises sharply again, the federal emergency brake should be put back into force. We have not overcome the pandemic and do not know what mutations are still to come. We are currently at Delta, and the Greek alphabet still has a lot of letters, ”said Gerd Landsberg, General Manager of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, WELT. “It would not have been necessary to restrict the federal emergency brake until the end of June, it could have continued to apply. With the current low incidence values, nobody in the country would have felt that anyway. “
Support for this comes from the German Association of Cities. “Fortunately, we are currently far from a federal emergency brake with the incidences. It only has to be reinstalled if the number of infections rises again nationwide due to new virus variants, ”said City Council General Manager Helmut Dedy WELT. “With very high incidences, uniform federal rules have helped people understand them.”
In addition, it was seen that the federal states, also driven by election campaigns, were sometimes stricter in interpreting the rules, sometimes more relaxed, says Gerd Landsberg. “That may be understandable from the point of view of the respective federal state, but it is not necessarily expedient when it comes to getting a nationwide pandemic under control.”
The “Federal Emergency Brake” was passed in April as part of the Infection Protection Act against considerable opposition from the federal states and the opposition in the Bundestag. The patchwork quilt of the various state regulations should be replaced by uniform national regulations. Just because the lead in the measures to contain Corona was transferred from the states to the federal government, it is one of the most controversial instruments in the fight against pandemics.
When Chancellor Merkel was unable to agree on stricter steps to contain the coronavirus with the prime ministers of the federal states in April, the federal government decided to take its own measures. In counties in which more than 100 people per 100,000 inhabitants were newly infected with the virus within seven days, strict restrictions were henceforth mandatory: people were no longer allowed to leave their apartments at night, contact bans were tightened, and shopping requirements were issued.
The “Federal Emergency Brake” has “been able to save many thousands of lives”, praised the President of the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, Gernot Marx – even if there have not yet been any comprehensive studies on whether the “Emergency Brake” has actually reduced the number of infections in recent weeks depressed, or whether the increasing number of vaccinations or the summer weather were not partly responsible.
Numerous federal states, however, only supported what they saw as “unnecessary” measure with murmuring. There were also many skeptical voices in the Bundestag. At the urging of the SPD parliamentary group, the “emergency brake” was limited to June 30th.
Bundestag against a return of the brakes
According to the will of many members of the Bundestag, there should not be an extension – and unlike the representatives of the cities, those of the districts are also skeptical. As early as April, the “Federal Emergency Brake” was criticized as a “vote of no confidence in the federal states and municipalities cast into law,” says Reinhard Sager (CDU), President of the German District Association. This assessment has not changed.
“You shouldn’t include this set of instruments in the Infection Protection Act after it expires at the end of June,” Sager told WELT. “The debate is not only driven by the legitimate concern of an uncontrollable fourth wave, but also by the desire for nationwide solutions. However, we generally consider it questionable to directly prescribe tailor-made solutions for very different situations on site in a federal law. “
Sager argues exactly the other way around than the city representatives: nationwide uniform rules have meant that their acceptance has suffered. With the so-called emergency brake, the federal states and municipalities were able to issue additional regulations in order to regulate individual areas more strictly. “In this respect, it has become more confusing with the federal law, because the population also had to keep an eye on the federal regulation,” criticizes Sager. “That shouldn’t happen again.”
And the way the mood across the parliamentary groups is currently in the Bundestag, it will not be. Because there is rejection of a return of the “federal emergency brake”. That would only be possible if the Bundestag and Bundesrat were involved. The Federal Parliament would have to support a revision of the Infection Protection Act with a majority.
The regional chamber does not have to give its consent, because it is not a law that requires consent. However, the law would have to be presented to her. If a majority in the Federal Council were to vote against reactivating the “emergency brake”, the mediation committee would have to be called and the content of the law would have to be renegotiated.
But it probably won’t get that far. “Of course, despite the very positive developments in the corona numbers, we must not be negligent. I still think the AHA rules are important because of the delta variant. For a reactivation of the federal emergency brake, however, I currently see no need, ”says the deputy chairman of the Union parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Thorsten Frei (CDU), WELT. “I hope that we will continue to make good progress with the vaccinations in the coming weeks that Delta and other variants will have no problems with us. For this it depends on each individual: It is important that above all every adult get vaccinated quickly. “
There is great unity in the grand coalition on this point. “The federal emergency brake was definitely right in the spring to avoid overloading the health system. But it is also right to let it expire on June 30th, “says SPD parliamentary deputy Dirk Wiese. The countries have now taken precautions to cope with increasing numbers of infections. “I would be against reactivating the emergency brake in its original form, even if the number of infections increases extremely. The incidence value cannot be the sole criterion for restrictions. ”
The progress of the vaccination must be taken into account, as well as the question of whether the infection is diffuse or localized. “I would completely reject a Federal Emergency Brake 2.0,” explains Wiese.
In any case, the FDP is sticking to its total rejection of the federal government’s comprehensive rights of intervention. “We criticize a possible extension of the federal emergency brake. We still consider this to be highly vulnerable and doubtful in its effect, ”says the health policy spokeswoman for the FDP parliamentary group, Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus. “The curfews in particular are disproportionate. Likewise, just relying on the incidence value without looking at other factors is wrong. ”
Meanwhile, the federal states are holding back with open criticism. A spokesman for the SPD-led Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry of Health simply says: “The state of Rhineland-Palatinate has a very strict regime beyond the federal emergency brake. Should the incidences rise again, then we would have very direct measures that would take effect. When it comes to curfews, for example, we go beyond the emergency brake. ”In other words, there is no need for federal intervention.
So the Chancellor is pretty much alone with her braking plans alongside the representatives of the cities. Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) jumped at her side or SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach. He had even stated that the federal emergency brake had been sacrificed “for the election campaign”. Many of those who don’t see it that way have since gone to court.
The Federal Constitutional Court has received 450 cases in connection with the “Federal Emergency Brake”, announced a spokesman for the court, including urgent motions and constitutional complaints. In more than half of the cases, however, a decision has not yet been made.