Some see the new Infection Protection Act as the disempowerment of parliament, others see a better legal basis in the fight against Corona. What is true? An overview.
With a new version of the so-called Infection Protection Act, the government parties want to put measures to combat pandemics in Germany on a more solid legal basis. But critics of the corona measures, anti-vaccination opponents and conspiracy theorists are upset. Her accusation: Chancellor and her ministers want to secure extensive rights bypassing parliament.
The vote in the Bundestag on Wednesday should therefore be prevented by all means. And so members of the Bundestag are bombarded with thousands of e-mails, like CSU regional group leader Alexander Dobrindt revealed in a meeting of the Union Group – what the I.T systems who crashed politicians.
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The Internet is raging: roadblocks in front of the Reichstag are demanded, in Facebook groups of corona deniers and even the AfD openly rant about violence against politicians. In addition, it is repeatedly said that the government wants to push through a new “enabling law” with the new version of the protection against infection. With such a law in 1933 the Reichstag overthrew itself under the National Socialists and became Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler delegated far-reaching powers.
Leading politicians reacted in horror at the comparison: “Anyone who equates this with the Infection Protection Act and argues so completely against our history is not concerned with serious democratic debate. It is about breaking and splitting,” writes SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil on twitter.
But who is right? Are the changes to the Infection Protection Act really the end of parliamentarism in Germany? Or is everything half as wild in the end? An overview:
Why is the Bundestag even concerned with the law?
The Infection Protection Act was passed in 2000 by the German Bundestag decided and thus replaced the Federal Disease Act. The state is therefore allowed to intervene in basic rights to protect against infection. At the time of entry into force, neither the SARS-CoV-2 virus nor the disease played Covid-19 and thus meanwhile common terms such as mask or distance a role. The law was therefore in the course of Corona-Pandemie already adjusted in spring. Now it should be specified again.
What should be changed now?
The law is intended to create “guard rails” for measures by the federal states, as SPD legal expert Johannes Fechner explained. This should bring greater legal certainty and also greater national uniformity. For the first time, the law contains a catalog of possible protective measures against the corona pandemic, such as exit or contact restrictions in private and public spaces, distance requirements, the obligation to wear a mouth and nose cover, as well as restrictions on the cultural and leisure area and the closure of schools and daycare centers.
The new Paragraph 28a also mentions restrictions on accommodation offers, the closure of retail and wholesale businesses and restaurants, cancellations and conditions for events. At religious gatherings and demonstrations – which enjoy special protection of fundamental rights – measures should only be permitted “if, taking into account all the other protective measures taken so far,” the containment of the corona would “be significantly jeopardized”. The law also bans the sale and consumption of alcohol in public places or at certain times, as well as the ordering of travel restrictions.
What is criticized about the law?
The SPD wanted to write a parliamentary reservation, i.e. the right of the Bundestag or state parliaments, at least retrospectively to collect regulations, in the law. But nothing came of it. Nevertheless, the new Infection Protection Act has security measures: Protective measures will continue to be mandated by ordinances of the federal states and, if responsible, the federal government. Express reference is made to the principle of proportionality. In addition to health aspects, social and economic consequences must also be examined.
Furthermore, restrictions must always be limited in time in the future and the rulers must provide the parliaments with a reason why the respective concrete measure is necessary. Restrictions on demonstrations or church services, both of which are particularly protected by the constitution, should only be permitted if there is no alternative to averting a pandemic. It will therefore be difficult for governments to disregard a dissenting parliamentary vote. There can therefore be no question of a permanent suspension of fundamental democratic principles.
What does the opposition in parliament say about this?
The FDP, which strongly criticizes the plans, firmly rejects the catchphrase “Enabling Act”. “Yes, we are experiencing massive restrictions on fundamental rights,” said Vice-parliamentary group leader Stephan Thomae. “But we are not experiencing an internal emergency. It is not a dictatorship. (…) The constitution applies, the separation of powers works, the judiciary works.” The AfD warned of massive damage from the partial lockdown in November. She calls for a “permanent epidemic commission” to develop criteria for establishing a national epidemic situation. Dieter Janecek (Greens) complained that the regulations remained “as legally indefinite and imprecise as the previous legal situation”. The left criticized the content and the tight timeframe of the whole process.
What criticism came from lawyers?
At a hearing in the health committee, lawyers had pretty much torn apart a first draft. “We advise against a resolution of the regulation in its current version”, it said, for example, in the statement of the legal scholar Anika Klafki from the University of Jena. Union and SPD then improved. But there is still no clear regulation as to which specific measures may be taken for which infection events, as critics complain.
What else does the law regulate?
In addition, the new version of the law regulates further aspects of living together in the corona pandemic:
- The infection values of 35 or 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days are expressly reported as Thresholds called for protective measures.
- In addition, the planned Prioritizing vaccinations regulated, i.e. a priority claim of people from risk groups, employees in the healthcare sector and other areas that are classified as particularly important. In the longer term, vaccinations should be open to everyone, regardless of health insurance.
- Holiday returnees from risk areas unlike before, should not receive any loss of earnings if they have to be quarantined after returning. A legal basis is provided for the obligation to make a digital entry registration and to indicate the whereabouts in the ten days before and after the return.
- Requirement for these specifications is that the Bundestag has decided on an “epidemic of national scope” – which is currently the case.
- The regulation that parents can claim compensation from a loss of earnings if they cannot work because of childcare.
- Criteria for Compensation claims from hospitalswho have favourited beds for corona sufferers. Unlike in the spring, these should not be granted on a lump-sum basis, but only for certain clinics and depending on the number of infections and a lack of intensive care beds.