After the massive criticism of the Easter resolutions of the Bund-Länder-Round at the beginning of the week, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) wants to consult with the Prime Ministers of the Länder again at short notice. At 11 a.m. there will be a call between the Chancellor and the heads of government, the SZ learned.
In the round with the Prime Minister, it will be about dealing with the ongoing criticism. Above all, displeasure was sparked by the fact that after the hours of corona consultations on Tuesday night, the implementation of central resolutions after the Prime Minister’s Conference (MPK) was still open.
Schleswig-Holstein’s Prime Minister Daniel Günther (CDU) pointed out problems with the implementation of the Easter resolutions. “We have also signaled the need to talk to the federal government in the last few hours,” said Günther in Kiel. The state government is known to be not satisfied with all of the decisions made at the beginning of the week. “But in particular what was agreed on the subject of Easter runs into considerable implementation difficulties that the federal government has not yet been able to clarify.”
The topic of the conference at noon will also be the way in which political decisions are communicated. In North Rhine-Westphalia, Prime Minister and CDU leader Armin Laschet said in front of the state parliament: “We have to change our method of governance.” The last MPK disappointed people – that was “self-criticism from someone who was there.” He said, “We can’t go on like this.” He will talk about this “very critically” with Merkel and the country chiefs in the appointed post.
Thuringia’s Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow also sharply criticized the past MPK. “I looked at a screen for six hours and wondered what was actually happening here,” he said in the ZDF “Morgenmagazin”. When asked whether Maundy Thursday was a public holiday, Ramelow said that he could not answer this question. At the federal-state meeting he waited until shortly before midnight and only then heard of the Maundy Thursday proposal. “Until 11:45 p.m. I didn’t even know where the Chancellor was and where some of the Prime Ministers were staying.” The federal government only announced that it would deliver the exact definition on Wednesday.
According to information from the dpa, the government survey with the Chancellor planned for 1 p.m. in the Bundestag should take place as planned. In the Bavarian state parliament, the debate on the lockdown extension was postponed because of the video conference with Merkel. Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) should make a government statement late in the morning, he doesn’t want to hold it until the afternoon.
Seehofer criticizes resolutions on church services
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has criticized the federal-state decision on Easter services. In it, religious communities are asked to hold meetings over Easter only virtually to protect against the coronavirus. “I was astonished that of all parties that have the C in their name, suggest that the churches refrain from worship services, especially at Easter,” said Seehofer image.
Seehofer made it clear that it was not about a ban or the requirement to cancel church services at Easter. “I would like to point out that this is a request,” he emphasized. “My house did not make this suggestion either, although we are responsible for the religions. Instead, very early in the pandemic, the Ministry of the Interior worked out hygiene concepts together with the churches, which are still working perfectly today.”
Merkel and the prime ministers of the federal states had agreed early Tuesday morning that there should be additional restrictions over Easter in order to break the third corona wave. Public, private and economic life should largely rest from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday. Religious groups were asked to hold meetings only virtually.
However, the Catholic and Protestant Churches have already made it clear that they do not want to forego attendance services without further ado. The chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Georg Bätzing, and the council chairman of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, said on Tuesday that the federal and state governments were surprised. Talks between the churches and the federal government were already ongoing on Tuesday at the working level.
In the discussions it must be made clear that opening the church doors at Easter is something different than opening any shops, said the President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (ZdK), Thomas Sternberg, the editorial network Germany. “That is not carelessness, but can be done responsibly while observing strict rules.”
Lower Saxony’s Prime Minister Stephan Weil (SPD) said on ZDF whether services should actually only take place virtually is currently still open. “We know that this is a special field. That is why we want to speak first before we decide.” The Saxon Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer made it clear that his country will not forbid the churches to attend church services. In the ARD, the CDU politician said on Tuesday evening: “We shouldn’t pretend that as politics.” He has no doubt that “the churches, the religious communities, will find a wise and responsible way”.
More than 75,000 dead since the pandemic began
In Germany, more than 75,000 people have died in connection with the coronavirus since the pandemic began more than a year ago. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 248 more deaths in the past 24 hours on Wednesday morning. The total number of corona deaths in Germany rose to 75 212.
The health authorities reported 15,813 new infections to the RKI within one day. Exactly one week ago, the RKI had recorded 13,435 new infections and 249 new deaths within one day. According to the RKI, the seven-day incidence nationwide on Wednesday morning was 108.1 – and thus at the same level as the day before.
The nationwide seven-day R-value was, according to the RKI situation report from Tuesday evening, 1.04 (previous day 1.12). This means that 100 infected people theoretically infect 104 more people. The value represents the occurrence of the infection 8 to 16 days ago. If it is below 1 for a longer period of time, the infection process subsides; if it is consistently higher, the number of cases increases.
Lockdown will be extended and tightened over Easter
In view of the further increase in the number of corona infections, the federal and state governments are sending Germany into the sharpest lockdown since the pandemic began a year ago. From April 1st to 5th inclusive, i.e. from Maundy Thursday to Easter Monday, public, economic and private life is to be largely shut down in order to break the third wave of the pandemic. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the prime ministers of the federal states decided on Tuesday night after more than eleven hours of deliberations. In view of the current “difficult phase of the pandemic”, “very unconventional measures” had to be taken, said Merkel. The lockdown to combat the corona pandemic will be extended to April 18.
Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday are defined once as “rest days” and associated with extensive contact restrictions. When asked which businesses are allowed to be open, she said that the existing regulations for Sundays and public holidays had been used as a guide. Petrol stations, for example, would remain open. In general, however, “the principle: we stay at home” applies to the five days, said Merkel. Private gatherings should be limited to your own household and one other household, but no more than five people. Children up to 14 years are not counted. Couples are considered one household. A small exception applies to Holy Saturday: on this day “the food trade in the narrower sense” is allowed to remain open.
According to the decision, gatherings in public spaces are generally prohibited during this period. Where outside catering is already open, it has to be closed again for these five days. Churches and religious communities are asked to only make online offers for believers at Easter. Only vaccination and test centers should remain open.
This was preceded by the most difficult round of negotiations between the Chancellor and the state heads of government since the outbreak of the pandemic. Negotiations lasted more than eleven hours – due to a dispute over so-called “low-contact vacation” in their own state, however, the big round was interrupted for hours. Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt and Rhineland-Palatinate insisted that their citizens should be able to vacation in holiday flats, holiday homes, apartments, caravans and mobile homes, provided they have their own sanitary facilities and organize their own meals can be. Nothing more can be found in the resolution. According to reports, Chancellor Merkel was dissatisfied with the interruption of the deliberations. You have argued that the measures taken up to that point were not enough to break the infection dynamics. You could not survive in public like this.
In view of the exponential growth in infections, the Chancellor and Prime Minister decided that the emergency brake agreed at the beginning of March must be implemented consistently. From a seven-day incidence of more than 100 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the districts should implement further steps. Among other things, exit restrictions, stricter contact restrictions or the obligation to perform daily quick tests in areas where it is difficult to keep your distance or consistently wear a mask are mentioned as options.
For holidaymakers abroad, a general obligation to test before the return flight is to be introduced through an amendment to the Infection Protection Act. It should be made a prerequisite for entering Germany. Even now, travelers who come from “high-incidence areas” with a particularly high number of infections and areas with new virus variants must show a negative test from departure.
Airlines want to test returnees from Mallorca themselves
German airlines want to test Mallorca returnees for Corona themselves. That reported the image– Newspaper on Monday evening. This was confirmed to the German Press Agency in government circles. The newspaper named the airlines Tui, Condor, Eurowings and Lufthansa, which still wanted to test on the island. Locations are now being searched for, and up to 40,000 returnees at Easter are at stake. Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer (CSU) has campaigned massively in the past few hours to ensure that the airlines test.
A week ago, the federal government removed the Germans’ favorite island from the list of risk areas and lifted the travel warning due to the sharp drop in infection rates. This means that there is no longer any obligation to test or quarantine for returnees. This has led to a booking boom, but also to heated discussions about whether you are risking a new source of infection. Therefore, during the deliberations of the federal and state governments on Monday, there were calls for a reintroduction of mandatory testing and also for a reintroduction of quarantine.
German Teachers’ Association calls for additional funding and a voluntary additional year
Since March of last year there has been a back and forth between closing and opening schools, between regular and alternating lessons, between classrooms and digital streams. And more and more children and adolescents are becoming infected with the corona mutants. This is one of the reasons why an extension of the lockdown is looming.
Nevertheless, it is not a completely lost school year, says the President of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger. Of course, there are deficits among many students. But to make up for this, “accompanying additional funding” and the possibility of a voluntary additional year are required. However, he considers suggestions such as lessons on Saturday and shortened holidays to be the “completely wrong approach”.
Since neither vaccinations nor rapid tests are currently available, Meidinger expects that normal school operations will only be possible in the new school year. Teachers should also be vaccinated as a matter of priority, he says. This is the only way to really fulfill the desire for open schools.