German lawmakers approve ’emergency brake’ virus rules

By GEIR MOULSON Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers have approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly. The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany’s 16 states. The lower house of parliament voted 342-250 for the plan on Wednesday, with 64 abstentions. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the legislation Thursday. It features plans to impose a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, limit personal contacts, close leisure and sports facilities and shut or restrict access to many stores.

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers on Wednesday approved a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to mandate uniform restrictions in areas where the coronavirus is spreading too quickly, among them closures and a nighttime curfew.

As parliament’s lower house debated the plan, thousands of protesters gathered on a nearby street. Police ended the demonstration after participants ignored coronavirus restrictions.

The legislation to apply an “emergency brake” consistently in areas with high infection rates is intended to end the patchwork of measures that has often characterized the pandemic response across highly decentralized Germany’s 16 states.

Lawmakers in the lower house voted 342-250 for the plan, with 64 abstentions. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the legislation Thursday. It would apply until the end of June.

“As hard as it is, as sick of it as we are, reducing contacts helps,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told lawmakers.

“We are again seeing 5,000 COVID-19 intensive care patients and rising, with the age of the patients sinking,” Spahn said. “We want to avoid an overburdening of our health system, an overburdening that many of our neighboring countries have experienced painfully.”

Not far from the parliament’s Reichstag building, an estimated 8,000 protesters assembled, few of them wearing masks. Police ended the gathering after organizers failed to get participants to comply with coronavirus restrictions.

A group of demonstrators was prevented from climbing over barriers. Officers used pepper spray after bottles were thrown at them, police said. The police department said on Twitter that seven people were arrested.

“There are some people out there today on the streets of this city who say it isn’t serious and there’s almost nothing going on,” Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in parliament. “Yes, something is going on: 80,000 people in this country have died, and you can’t talk past or overlook that.”

“Because that’s the case, and because the situation is still serious, something must be done beyond what we have done so far,” Scholz said. “And what we need now is clarity and consistency for what happens when the…infection rates rise too much.”

The proposal features plans to impose a 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew, limit personal contacts, close leisure and sports facilities and shut or restrict access to many stores.

The measures would kick in for areas where there are more than 100 weekly new cases per 100,000 residents. Schools would have to switch to distance learning at a higher rate of 165.

Germany’s nationwide rate stood at 160 new cases per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, though there were wide regional variations.

Opposition lawmakers advanced a variety of arguments against the bill. Alexander Gauland of the far-right Alternative for Germany, which opposes lockdown measures in general, called it an “attack on rights of freedom, federalism and common sense.”

The Greens had different objections. “This emergency brake remains too half-hearted, too ineffective, too inconsistent and too disproportionate,” lawmaker Maria Klein-Schmeink said.

Latest in News

News

Couple Who Aimed Guns at BLM Protestors Facing Law License Suspension

News

Gallup: U.S. Approval of Interracial Marriage at 94%

Minneapolis Cop charged

News

Former Deputy Charged in Death of Teen Represented by Ben Crump

News

Trial Set for Texas Police Officer Who Shot Atatiana Jefferson

Rwanda

News

‘Hotel Rwanda’s’ Paul Rusesabagina Sentenced to 25-Year in Prison

News

Jay-Z’s Team Roc Files Lawsuit Against Kansas City Police Department

News

Sarah Dash, Founding Member of Labelle, Dies at 76

News

Kevin Richardson of the ‘Exonerated 5’ Gets Honorary Degree from SU