Corona resolutions: Prime ministers slow down Merkel

Angela Merkel and Markus Söder

The Chancellor, Bavaria’s Prime Minister Söder and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller held a press conference in the evening to inform them about the next steps in the pandemic.


(Photo: dpa)

Berlin The corona deliberations by the federal and state governments on this Monday were planned as an interim balance two weeks after the start of the partial lockdown in November. The Chancellery obviously wanted more, at least the draft resolution drawn up by the government headquarters indicated this. However, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was unable to prevail.

After the deliberations, Merkel admitted that there had been “different ideas” – for example when it came to the question of whether tightening the contact rules are necessary.

The overwhelming majority of the countries did not want an “interim legal change”. Nevertheless, after the digital meeting, the Chancellor concluded that what had been achieved was “a good decision” for an interim assessment.

Merkel cannot be satisfied, however. The federal states blocked both stricter contact restrictions and new requirements for schools.

At the end of October, Merkel and the prime ministers had unanimously agreed on extensive restrictions on public life, including the closure of restaurants and bars and a ban on events. Now it was over again with the unity between the federal and state governments.

On the night of this Monday, a ten-page paper had become public in which the Chancellery pre-formulated resolutions for the corona deliberations. The proposal met with incomprehension among the federal states.

Because according to information from the Handelsblatt from regional circles, the opinion at the preparatory switching conference of Chancellery chief Helge Braun (CDU) and the heads of the state chancelleries looked different on Sunday. A majority of the federal states have advocated waiting for further measures.

The reactions in some state governments about the bill from the Chancellery ranged from amazement to anger. There was talk of a “night and fog” campaign by the federal government. The state governments finally went into the deliberations with a competing draft resolution in which essential points were presented in a weakened manner.

The fact that the prime ministers are presenting a counter paper to Merkel’s corona plans is a novelty. The talks between the federal and state governments then lasted significantly longer than expected, and Merkel only appeared in front of the press after 7 p.m. together with Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) and Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD).

Appeals instead of resolutions

The original plans of the Chancellery were to tighten the contact restrictions in the corona pandemic again. Since the beginning of November, only members of your own household and one other household may be in public, but a maximum of ten people.

Now, according to the ideas of the Chancellery, staying in public should only be permitted with members of your own household and a maximum of two people from another household. The federal government wanted to make this rule mandatory and sanction violations by the regulatory authorities.

After the intervention of the federal states, this passage disappeared. Instead, there are only appeals to the population: Private meetings with friends and relatives should be limited to “a permanent household”, this also applies to children and young people. Citizens should forego private celebrations entirely.

Citizens should also refrain from leisure activities, unnecessary private trips and day tours. The same applies to unnecessary stays in closed rooms with public traffic or unnecessary journeys with public transport.

Older and vulnerable people should only be visited if all family members are free of any symptoms of illness and have not taken any contact risks. Merkel said that these were not regulations, but reminders. But these are “really serious”.

The presentation by the Chancellery that citizens should go into quarantine at home for five to seven days “with every cold symptom” – including coughing and runny nose – also caused major discussions. In business this thought was received with bewilderment.

Employer President Ingo Kramer hastily wrote a letter to the Chancellor and the country leaders: “I hope you are aware that every year at this time of year everyone has a cold.” Such a rule would “in fact paralyze all companies in the shortest possible time”.

Countries also disagree when it comes to schools

In the federal-state decision of Monday evening there is now a weakened passage: It is recommended that “people with respiratory diseases can use the option, which has been reintroduced since October, to call their doctor on sick leave”.

To stay at home until the acute symptoms subside and to cure oneself is also useful for healing, “even if no additional medical treatment is required”.

Among other things, the Chancellery had plans to reduce the size of school classes and make masking compulsory for all age groups – on the school premises and in class. Here, too, the countries stood across. Now the federal and state governments want to discuss at the next conference in the coming week how the risk of infection in schools can be reduced, especially in areas with high levels of infection.

In any case, many important questions in the further fight against the corona virus will probably only be clarified in the video slot scheduled for November 25th. Söder said on Monday evening: “Next week is the week of decision.”

Bavaria’s head of government, who supports Merkel’s tough line in the corona crisis, does not believe in quick easing. On the other hand, tightening is conceivable if the number of infections does not drop significantly. “I have little hope that everything will be all right again by the end of November,” he said.

Merkel indicated that next week the federal and state governments could adopt a longer-term strategy for the next few months. It won’t just be about how things go after November 30th. But also about an outlook up to the new year and the winter months, “so that a bit of predictability comes into the whole corona pandemic situation”.

More: Follow the current developments in the corona crisis in our news blog.

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