The German Bundestag today passed important amendments to the Infection Protection Act. The central changes is that in future, if the seven-day incidence in a district or town exceeds 100 on three consecutive days, additional measures will come into effect two days later. These measures apply nationwide and have now been incorporated in the Act.
The incidence of 100 is exceeded when more than 100 new cases of infections with SARS-CoV-2 per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded over a seven-day period.
“The situation is serious, very serious,” stressed Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn in the German Bundestag. We can see this by taking a look at the capacity of intensive care units, which he described as “the hardest currency in this pandemic”. Vaccination and testing provide prospects, but are not in themselves enough to contain the third wave. There is one effective, tried and tested way of doing that – “reducing contacts and thus reducing transmission of the infection”.
“What we need now is clarity and rigour,” underscored Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz during the parliamentary debate. The amendment to the Infection Protection Act stipulates that something has to happen when an incidence of over 100 is recorded – “everywhere in Germany”. The new provisions are intended to make the necessary measures easier to understand and to generate more support for these measures. Olaf Scholz made it clear that the aim is to overcome the pandemic and that this is not to be a “permanent state of affairs”.
The nationwide emergency brake now provides for a large number of measures in order to significantly reduce contacts and brake the spread of the virus when case numbers increase beyond a certain level. These measures are set out in the new Article 28b of the Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz). Many citizens are already familiar with most instruments, which have been agreed on by the Heads of Government of the Länder and the Federal Chancellor to combat the pandemic.
“There is no other way. We must brake the third wave of the pandemic and end the rapid rise in the numbers of new cases,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel in the German Bundestag at the start of the debate on Friday. “To achieve this at last, we will have to pool the strengths of the federal, state and local governments and authorities better than we have done in the recent past. That is why we have drawn the inescapable conclusions.”
“I fully realise that these are tough restrictions,” said the Chancellor. With regard to the much debated curfew in particular she stressed that this is obviously no panacea. But in conjunction with other measures, including strict contact restrictions, curfews can be effective. “In the pandemic it is all about reducing contacts. It is about reducing evening visits with travel from one place to another – also using public transport.” The advantages of the measure outweigh the disadvantages, she declared.
“All the measures serve one goal – to lead Germany out of this dreadful phase of steadily rising numbers of new cases, intensive care units filling up, and the shockingly high number of daily deaths due to COVID-19, for the good of everyone. And this will be so much more effective than trying to just muddle through somehow,” explained Angela Merkel. “We managed before. And we can do it again,” declared the Chancellor.
The draft Fourth Act to Protect the Population during an Epidemic Situation of National Scope was adopted by the Cabinet on Tuesday 13 April – as proposed wording for the CDU/CSU and SPD parliamentary groups in the German Bundestag. The Fourth Act to Protect the Population during an Epidemic Situation of National Scope contains an amendment to the Infection Protection Act. The German Bundestag passed the Act on Wednesday 21 April. On Thursday the second chamber, the Bundesrat will consider the legislation. The Act does not need to be passed by the Bundesrat.