The news of the day is a long time coming, initially there is a crisis routine on Wednesday afternoon in the Prinz-Carl-Palais. After the federal-state resolutions, the cabinet met and Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) announced the results. There are two questions in the room: Will Bavaria, as so often in 2020, add a little more to the Corona rules? And how do the Free Voters behave, who liked to stick with the CSU? Then, towards the end of Söder’s lecture and almost incidentally, the surprise: Health Minister Melanie Huml has to give up her position, the house is to be run by Klaus Holetschek (both CSU), who as State Secretary and head of a “Corona Task Force” entered the building in late summer Ministry changed.
Over the holidays, Söder says, he has considered the “basic list” for the coming months – for this “very decisive phase”, which is “clearly more difficult and worse than the first wave”. Also in terms of personnel: Huml should strengthen the State Chancellery in an advisory capacity in the fight against Corona, saying it is “urgently needed”. Söder said he had “high appreciation for her performance and experience”. Independently of this, the 45-year-old will be responsible for Europe and international relations as Minister of State.
Söder says it is “not a decision based on an occasion”. This coincides with assessments from well-informed circles. Holetschek cut a “very good figure”, made clear decisions and made clear announcements and managed the house “by train”. Characteristics that observers did not attest to Huml despite her expertise as a doctor. Ultimately, the personnel is less a statement against Huml than one for Holetschek. He is acutely “just the right man”.
If Söder had deposed his minister in autumn, the surprise would have been much smaller. At that time, Huml came under massive criticism because of the debacle in corona tests for return travelers. 44,000 people had been waiting for their result for days, including 900 infected people. She had offered him her resignation twice, said Söder at the time. Instead of accepting this, Söder put Holetschek, a state secretary, at the side of his minister. “A real reinforcement,” said CSU General Secretary Markus Blume. But even then, hardly anyone could overlook the fact that the “reinforcement” also meant a loss of power for Huml.
Recently it was heard more and more often that Holetschek had long been the secret boss in the ministry. His public presence fitted into this picture. Instead of Huml, Holetschek often appeared on TV programs and at public appointments. One can believe Söder that he appreciates Huml. But when he calls Holetschek a “doer”, that is probably an indication of what Söder sometimes missed at Huml during the crisis: the qualities of doer. Anyone who asks Holetschek’s companion about their strengths will hear this attribute. Because of his previous positions as a member of the Bundestag, Mayor in Bad Wörishofen and Vice District Administrator in Unterallgäu, he knows the interaction of all political levels – important in the pandemic.
Holetschek announced in the evening that he would take up the post “with humility and respect for the task”. It can be heard that both of them only found out from Söder shortly before the cabinet meeting where they would be in the future. Söder also allegedly only communicated his decision to the Council of Ministers at the end of the meeting, as casually as later to the press. To this end, he is concentrating on the core messages: to essentially adopt the federal-state resolution – and to extend and tighten the lockdown until the end of January.
In the future, contact restrictions will apply again as in the spring – meetings only with one person away from your own household. In addition, there is restricted freedom of movement of a 15-kilometer radius for regions with an incidence value of more than 200; Shopping, work and family visits are excluded, primarily tourist excursions. The Ministry of the Interior is working out details, especially on fines and controls.
The state parliament will debate the rules on Friday
A special session of the state parliament on the innovations is scheduled for Friday. The course is right, otherwise the numbers would have “gone through the roof” in December, said Söder. There is no all-clear. There is also a risk of the mutated virus variant, of which there is a proven case in Bavaria – by a traveler returning from Great Britain.
Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (FW) announced, among other things, that the government will allow “Click and Collect” in future, meaning that goods can be ordered online and picked up in the store. In Aiwanger’s speech about the exceptions to the 15-kilometer rule, the word “Thank God” is often used; it should be noted that he is hardly happy with it; Media reports had previously quoted him as “nonsense”. There is no longer any question of that. Perhaps a forest walk by Söder and Aiwanger on their farm in Lower Bavaria on Monday sharpened the coalition discipline. A press conference of the FW parliamentary group on Tuesday, in which about an opening perspective was called for, played no role according to the cabinet.
In the state parliament, the majority should stand for the measures via the CSU and FW, but debates are to be expected. For example, SPD parliamentary group leader Horst Arnold reprimands “disproportionate wooden hammer methods”, the FDP a “disproportionate interference with fundamental rights”.
In the excursion regions, the rules on freedom of movement not only meet with approval. The mayor of Schliersee, Franz Schnitzenbaumer (CSU), told Bayerischer Rundfunk that it was right to react appropriately and not to impose a “full lockdown”. The Miesbach District Administrator Olaf von Löwis (CSU) said the regulation “could relieve us”. From his point of view, however, a more precise specification would be desirable, according to which a high incidence makes excursions inadmissible not only at the place of residence but also at the destination.
Elisabeth Koch (CSU) also criticizes a lack of precision. The mayor of Garmisch-Partenkirchen considers the 15-kilometer rule to be legally open to attack, hardly verifiable and therefore difficult to enforce. Koch no longer hopes for a symbolic effect. “We relied on people’s common sense for a long time, but I was disappointed.”