• The federal and state governments have agreed on exit restrictions in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus.
• However, there was an open uproar at the conference call between the Chancellor, some Federal Ministers and the Prime Ministers.
• NRW Prime Minister Laschet presented a paper against curfews coordinated with eleven other countries, which the Bavarian counterpart SOder resented.
How the conference call escalated
One of the tangible effects of this crisis is that Sunday is taking on new meaning. Sunday was once the day of rest and contemplation. For many people it was also the day of going to church. Church services are prohibited in Germany, nobody knows how long. But Sunday turns into the day of the decision.
Again and again on Sundays, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) interacts with other key people from this republic for telephone conferences, in which decisions are taken that fundamentally change the lives of Germans. Last Sunday, at the end of the phone call, border controls were introduced. This Sunday the desk with the prime ministers and the most important federal ministers dealt with one of the most serious government measures in decades, namely the question: Who can leave his house and under what conditions?
The Chancellor, at least, will stay at home for now. Before she went into quarantine because of the contact with a doctor who had meanwhile tested positive, she stepped in front of the press again at 5:30 p.m. in the Federal Chancellery and announced the result of a, one could say, turbulent switching conference: she spoke of “expanded guidelines “to shut down public life as far as it can be justified. “In short, this is how we save lives,” said the Chancellor in her speech, which was reminiscent of her emotional television appearance last Wednesday. According to Merkel, the decision made on Sunday allowed people to stay in public space only on their own, with another person not living in the household, or with members of their own household. The regulation does not apply to the workplace. However, the group refrained from a general curfew, such as applies in Italy, as expected.
Merkel said: “We want to allow people to leave the house to get some fresh air.” However, the measures now adopted are not recommendations, but rules that everyone should abide by. These rules include keeping a minimum distance of 1.50 meters in public “wherever possible”. Restaurants are closed. The delivery and collection of food remains allowed. The hairdressers, cosmetic studios and similar companies must now also close, exceptions apply to medically necessary treatments. Merkel said that she was deeply moved that “millions and millions” were sticking to the exit restrictions that had already been imposed, and she was convinced that this community spirit would lead everyone through the difficult time. Her urgent appeal was: “Please bring everyone along!” That was aimed at the entire population, but it looks like not all prime ministers seem to stick to it. Bavarias head of state Markus SOder (CSU) apparently does not want to take over the ban on gathering for more than two people. According to the dpa, it should remain with the Bavarian regulation, according to which one should only go into the fresh air with relatives of one’s own household.
This Sunday it was also about the Chancellor’s attempt to bring the countries together in a unified manner. Germany has been moving for days at different speeds in its 16 individual parts to a condition where practically every day is Sunday: schools and daycare centers closed, offices deserted, shops close. A patchwork of regulations and exceptions has arisen, in the end of which hardly anyone managed to keep an overview. In crisis management, German federalism has proven to be a political issue – where everyone is supposed to stick together against the virus.
Cohesion could apparently not be mentioned in the conference call on Sunday, despite the joint decision. This already shows the fact that even before the Chancellor’s press conference, several heads of state ran their own press conferences to emphasize their own influence on the outcome of the deliberations. North Rhine-Westphalias Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) started at 4:30 p.m., an hour before the Chancellor. At 5:00 p.m., the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Malu Dreyer (SPD), and Baden-Wuerttemberg’s state chief Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) informed about the results of the phone call with the Chancellor. According to Kretschmann’s description, what is already valid in his country now applies across the whole of Germany: “The agreement takes up the Baden-Wurttemberg line”.
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Laschet, in turn, described the term “ban on contact” introduced by him as a broad consensus. But that was denied from Bavaria. It was also striking that Merkel did not adopt the word “contact ban”. It is about further reducing contacts, she said. SOder and Laschet are now the main opponents in this mess. In the telephone booth with the Chancellor, there was an open uproar: Laschet presented a paper coordinated with eleven other countries that was directed against curfews. SOder is said to have threatened to leave the switching conference prematurely, also because the paper had not been agreed with him. However, other participants criticized SOder for failing to make sufficient efforts to vote as chairman of the prime ministerial conference. Such requests have meanwhile caused a great deal of resentment in the Bavarian State Chancellery, where one is wrongly put to the pillory. There is no direct access for the federal government on these issues, which is why the Chancellor must rely on the understanding of the federal states that a contradicting crisis strategy is difficult to convey to the citizens. The regulations that have now been set should apply for at least two weeks. After that, the federal and state governments want to draw an interim assessment – together, unless someone rushes forward again.
You will find all current information and recommendations from the Ministry of Health here.