Berlin · Masks and testing will again play an increased role in everyday life in Germany in the fall and winter, when coronavirus numbers rise. After much wrangling, the German parliament gave the green light for the new rules.
The Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, has approved Covid rules for fall and winter, with the legislative package of the government coalition receiving 386 votes on Thursday. It generally allows for stricter specifications on masks and tests once again. 313 members of parliament voted against it, 3 abstained. Now the Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, still has to agree. The rules are to apply from October 1 until April 7, 2023 and are intended to counter a feared significant increase in Covid infections.
Nationwide, FFP2 masks will continue to be mandatory on long-distance trains, but no longer on airplanes. Such masks will also be mandatory in hospitals, nursing homes and doctors' offices. In addition, a negative test will have to be presented before access to nursing homes and hospitals.
Mandatory masks in schools is possible
German states will be allowed to impose mandatory masks in restaurants and other indoor areas starting in October. The states will also be able to impose mandatory masks on public transport. Tests are to be made compulsory in schools and daycare centers. It will also be possible to impose mandatory masks in schools from grade five. In the event of a regionally critical coronavirus situation, the states will be able to impose further requirements.
During the debate, the opposition voiced harsh criticism. CDU health expert Tino Sorge accused the coalition of "considerable technical deficiencies". Kathrin Vogler of the Left Party criticized the plans as implausible. Several AfD members of parliament called on the coalition to give people back "their freedom and personal responsibility”.
Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) defended the rules, saying, "We are enabling the states to offer exactly what is needed, depending on the pandemic situation - no more, but also no less." Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said of the draft he helped develop, "It contains no lockdowns, no company closures, no school closures, no bans on demonstrations.”
Orig. text: dpa