Pandemic: Expert report is the next stage in the corona-politics dispute

Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) at a press conference in Berlin. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/dpa

How should Germany prepare for a possible bigger corona wave after the summer? The FDP especially wanted to wait for an expert opinion. It’s coming now – but does it provide the desired answers?

Berlin – The battle for the corona exchange rate enters the next round in the fall: a committee of experts today presents an assessment of the previous state restrictions.

The Semaphore Coalition has agreed to wait for a scientific assessment before making a decision on possible further daily requirements for the autumn – then a more critical pandemic situation is expected. Federal health ministers want to position themselves at a special conference this afternoon.

Further arrangements for autumn

Scientists from various disciplines belong to the expert commission, half of which is from the Federal Government and the Bundestag. The evaluation primarily aims to shed light on the specifications in the context of an “epidemic situation of national importance”. This state of affairs, established by the Bundestag under the Act on Protection against Infection, lasted for several months until the end of November 2021 and enabled the closure of numerous facilities and meeting daily needs.

The committee has already signaled that a “full evaluation of all measures” will not have to be carried out until the end of June. In addition, expectations that there will be concrete recommendations to politicians have been reduced. In the coalition, however, the FDP in particular insisted on the evaluation as a prerequisite for further steps. A subsequent regulation must be found for the fall because the provisions on the corona virus in the Law on Protection against Infection, which were significantly reduced in the spring, expire on September 23 as the legal basis for the entire country.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) wants to receive the report in the afternoon. He announced that he and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) were aiming for a cornerstone regulation for the autumn before the summer break – it could then be decided after the summer. The Bundestag will recess on July 8 and reconvene in the week starting September 5. Lauterbach and Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) made it clear that it is important to have the right “winter tires” ready for autumn. Since the beginning of April, most of the government regulations have been removed from everyday life – nevertheless, in cultural institutions, for example, there are mask requirements.

Göring-Eckardt (Greens) criticizes the FDP

The union takes care of the schedule. CDU health expert Tino Sorge described in the “Augsburger Allgemeine” as sporting that he wants to decide on the new regulations for the fall essentially after the summer break. Sorge spoke out against the far-reaching curtailment of personal freedom to combat the virus. “Renewed encroachments on fundamental rights, such as nationwide quarantines or closing schools and kindergartens, must be avoided in the future,” Sorge said.

Bundestag Vice President Katrin Göring-Eckardt blamed the FDP for the schedule. “I don’t think it is particularly responsible in the fight against the pandemic to wait for an expert opinion that you don’t have to do anything for the time being,” the Greens politician told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. It would be good if at least the key points for the draft law were presented before the summer break. “My biggest concern is that we will again find ourselves in a situation where things are put on the table in a hasty manner,” Göring-Eckardt said.

Medical officials want the Infection Protection Act to be as far-reaching as possible. “Lockdown must also be possible as one of the last instruments,” the president of the Federal Association of Doctors in Public Health Johannes Nießen told media group Funke’s newspaper. “In an absolute emergency, state governments must be able to quickly close businesses and schools again,” he added.

The new regulation for citizen tests has polarized

The expert commission for current corona measures should not be confused with the expert council of the federal government, which has already made several statements about pending decisions. There was a stir around the committee after the head of virology at Charité Berlin, Christian Drosten, announced his retirement at the end of April. One of the reasons is that, from his point of view, the equipment and composition of the commission was not sufficient to guarantee high-quality evaluation. Virologist Klaus Stöhr replaced Drosten at the suggestion of the Union.

New misfortune for the Minister of Health Lauterbach in the new regulation on tests for citizens. From Thursday, they are free only for risk groups and other exceptional cases. Otherwise, a surcharge of three euros will be due. The association of doctors with mandatory health insurance announced in a letter that became known on Thursday evening that “in the future, they will no longer be able to charge and pay for tests to citizens.”

The president of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (KBV), Andreas Gassen, called for the tests for citizens to be completely suspended. “These meaningless tests must be abolished. They are too expensive, the bureaucratic effort is enormous, and the epidemiological significance is zero,” Gassen told the “Bild” newspaper (Friday). It was a “completely pointless event to test healthy people of questionable quality for no reason,” emphasized the head of the KBV. However, PCR tests in symptomatic patients are important to clearly demonstrate corona infections.

RKI: Infection rate is rising

Lauterbach defended the new regulation on “RTL direct”. The tests would be more meaningful now. A spokesman for the ministry said in response to the announcement of the Association of Compulsory Health Insurance Physicians that it is assumed that they, as public bodies, will continue to fulfill their mandate for billing and random testing of testing centers. “In the dialogue, we will discuss with the KVs in a short period of time how the new rules can be implemented in a non-bureaucratic way,” said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the Robert Koch Institute reports in its new weekly report that the infection process is gaining momentum. In the seven-day incidence nationwide, there was a 38 percent increase in the past week compared to the previous week. There is also an obvious increase in the number of epidemics in nursing homes and the number of people with Covid-19 treated in intensive care units. The more infectious omicron subline BA.5 has already reached a 66 percent share, according to the weekly report.


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