Status: 07.11.2021 7:39 p.m.
In view of the rising corona numbers, politicians are arguing about the right way to go in the pandemic. Should testing be free again? And who should actually decide on measures? Some federal states do not wait for the answers.
With the colder days, the fourth corona wave is spreading more and more in Germany: The number of new infections is increasing rapidly, the Robert Koch Institute now gives the seven-day incidence at 191.5. A month ago it was 62.6.
In view of this development, politicians are asking themselves the well-known question: How to deal with the increasing number of cases and how to proceed in order to contain the pandemic in the best possible way? Above all, one agent is increasingly coming into focus again, on which the federal government and federal states have almost mantra-like since the outbreak of the pandemic: test, test, test.
But since October 11th, anyone who wants to be tested has to bear the costs themselves. The test is only free in exceptional cases. A step for which Eugen Brysch from the board of the German Foundation for Patient Protection found clear words:
Abolishing the free trials was one of the stupidest decisions.
A “wrong decision”
It is not the only critical tone about the end of the free tests. The President of the German Medical Association, Klaus Reinhardt, also spoke in the newspapers of the Funke media group of a “wrong decision” that the federal and state governments should correct “as quickly as possible” – at best with the amendment of the Infection Protection Act in the middle of the month.
But not only among representatives of the health sector are the voices calling for the U-turn in matters of fee-based tests. in the “Report from Berlin” Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Health, Heiner Garg, also pleaded for the “decision from the past to be corrected together”. The FDP politician emphasized: “I share and support the demand for the reintroduction of free citizen tests for everyone.” In his opinion, this is a good way of “getting through autumn and winter better”.
Other parties had previously spoken out in favor of offering the tests again free of charge: Supporters include CSU boss Markus Söder, the Green parliamentary group leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt and North Rhine-Westphalia’s new Prime Minister Hendrik Wüst. He also wants to offer vaccinated and recovered people the opportunity to be tested free of charge. Because the high numbers of infections also increased the risk of more vaccination breakthroughs, emphasized Wüst in the “Bild am Sonntag”.
From a full cost to a deductible?
A clear no to the return to free tests, however, comes from Bremen: The mayor of the Hanseatic city, Andreas Bovenschulte, clearly rejected this option in an interview with the “Welt”. “I still have problems with the general public paying for the tests for those who voluntarily refrain from vaccination,” said the SPD politician.
But there is also the middle ground, at least in the eyes of Frank-Ulrich Montgomery, the chairman of the World Medical Association. In an interview with the SWR he called the attempt to strengthen the vaccination incentive by paying for tests “good and right”. In view of the worsening pandemic, Montgomery pleaded that “one should perhaps pass a small deductible or a slight reduction, but no longer the full costs on the people”. On the other hand, he assessed the decision to let the epidemic emergency come to an end on November 25th as a clear mistake:
“At the moment, in my opinion, it makes little sense to lift the national emergency. We still have an emergency. And it is getting worse every day.”
Traffic light parties advise on new corona rules
But it is precisely for this case that the potential partners of a traffic light coalition are preparing. The SPD, Greens and FDP are currently working on a joint draft law that will enable the federal states to impose stricter corona requirements if necessary, even after the emergency situation has expired. The Bundestag is expected to discuss this draft on Thursday.
As the “BamS” reports, tests also play a role in the draft of the possible coalition parties. However, as the negotiating circles confirmed, the focus is more on compulsory daily tests for staff and visitors in nursing homes – regardless of whether they have been vaccinated or recovered. In addition, the traffic light parties are probably working on measures to prevent fraud with falsified vaccination certificates and are considering paying out corona premiums to hospitals again if they keep part of their intensive care beds free for corona patients. In addition, the booster vaccinations are to be accelerated nationwide.
After the announcement of the three parties, the federal states should continue to have corona measures such as mask requirements, hygiene concepts or access rules only for vaccinated, convalescent and tested people. School closings, lockdowns and curfews will no longer exist, said SPD parliamentary deputy Dirk Wiese. Greens boss Annalena Baerbock had told the editorial network Germany: “It is a matter of putting the protective measures on a legally viable basis and thereby securing them.” The measures would have to be decided by the Bundestag.
Dispute over another federal-state meeting
At the end of October, the Prime Minister’s Conference demanded that there must be a nationwide uniform legal framework to secure corona protective measures even after the epidemic had expired. Several prime ministers feared a “patchwork quilt” if guard rails were not set for the time after the epidemic situation.
As long as the epidemic emergency is in force, the decision on the corona course lies with the federal and state governments. Nationwide measures were jointly coordinated in regular consultations. And from the point of view of primarily Union politicians, it should stay that way in the future. So Söder, Wüst and Hesse’s head of state Volker Bouffier had spoken out in favor of a prompt federal-state meeting. The head of the chancellery, Helge Braun, also pleaded for a new conference of prime ministers. But the traffic light parties do not want to know about it. The General Secretary of the FDP, Volker Wissing, summarized it in the “Handelsblatt” as follows:
The Bundestag has to make decisions, not the Prime Minister’s Conference. That’s why I don’t think such a meeting would make sense.
The first federal states tighten measures
With Bavaria and Saxony, the first two federal states are already getting serious and tightening their corona measures. In Bavaria, stricter conditions have been in force again since Sunday. Wherever the 3G rule previously applied, 3G Plus now applies: People who have not been vaccinated or have recovered must present a negative PCR test. A quick test is no longer enough. FFP2 medical masks are now standard. Only those who have been vaccinated and those who have recovered have access to facilities such as clubs and discos. And in schools the mask requirement is being reintroduced in the classroom.
And it might not be long before the next warning level is reached in Bavaria’s hospitals. It is currently on yellow, as soon as at least 600 corona patients are cared for in the intensive care units in the state’s clinics, it jumps to the red level, which would mean that the requirements would be tightened again. According to the Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), 589 corona patients were treated in Bavarian intensive care units on Sunday.
In Saxony, the 2G regulation will apply uniformly at the start of the new week. This means that large parts of public life are initially reserved for vaccinated and convalescent people, such as a visit to a restaurant, cultural institution or discotheque.
The so-called corona warning level already applies in Baden-Württemberg, with more than 250 corona patients in intensive care units. If it is 390 or more, the alert level comes into force – which would also result in more restrictions for people without a vaccination. The Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Social Affairs and Health expects this case to occur at the end of next week.