Public Policy Dynamics Germany #6

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in Germany

Total COVID-19 cases:2,667,225
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:194.8
14-day change:+57.4
Total COVID-19 deaths:74,714
14-day rise:2,780
  • The corruption scandal concerning members of the conservative party on a federal level as well as on a state level in Bavaria is affecting ever broader circles. Several new cases of politicians facing allegations of misconduct appeared over the past few weeks, putting the party under enormous pressure and affecting nationwide polling numbers.
  • The AstraZeneca vaccine is still an integral part of the German vaccination programme against Covid-19. After suspending the administration for several days and closer investigations, the regulatory bodies emphasized that the advantages outweigh the risks. Doctor’s offices are expected to administer vaccinations to their patients starting in early April.
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 Prime Ministers of the states have agreed on the extension of the current lockdown in Germany until 18 April. The conference announced the idea of a “5-day Easter lockdown”. This was retracted soon after due to the limited time to properly prepare for such measures.

Politics

  • The Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU, the regional party in Bavaria), remain at the centre of a corruption scandal. After two MPs faced allegations of self-enrichment and corruption for arranging deals to procure masks that earned their respective companies hundreds of thousands of euros in early March, even more MPs face allegations for different potential misconducts weeks later.
  • Alfred Sauter, member of the Executive Board of the CSU, former Minister of Justice and member of the regional parliament in Bavaria, put his mandate to rest and left his parliamentary group for potentially arranging similar mask deals. Tobias Zech, another conservative politician and member of the German Federal Parliament from the CSU, resigned from his mandate and dropped his party office because of allegations concerning a potential conflict of interest. He had actively supported the campaign of a former Prime Minister in Macedonia, thereby earning provisions for consultancy jobs. A third case involves the German Minister of Health Jens Spahn and his life partner, whose company is reported to have sold masks to the Ministry of Health. Critics see a conflict of interest in the transaction of this deal.
  • The ongoing stir about the “mask scandal”, combined with the devastating results of the state elections from 14 March, in which the CDU reached historically low results, is being reflected in the latest polls regarding the federal elections to be held in September 2021. According to numbers from Wednesday, 24 March, the CDU dropped from 31.8% to 27.4% public support within one and a half weeks. The Green Party is benefiting the most from these events – their numbers have surged from 18.5% to 21.4%. This development amplifies the discussion about a potential Chancellor candidate from the Green Party, a question the party has always attempted to avoid answering.

 

Health

  • As with many other European countries, Germany suspended the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine on 15 March. The reason for this decision by the federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn was a recommendation by the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI), the German federal agency and medical regulatory body, as well as research institution for vaccines and biomedicines. Prior to that, several cases of a special type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) were reported in several European countries. After four days of thorough investigation by the PEI, in cooperation with the EMA and the European partners as well as the WHO, it was concluded that the vaccine is both safe and effective.
  • Since the announcement Germany has resumed its administration. This was an important decision, since the vaccine by AstraZeneca is expected to be an integral part of the German campaign. Against the background of these events, the German Government, in cooperation with the 16 Prime Ministers of the states, decided to integrate the roughly 50,000 family doctor’s offices into the vaccination programme earlier than initially planned. 
  • The German Hospital Society (Deutsche Krankenhaus-Gesellschaft, DKG) welcomes and recognises the basic guidelines of the statutory ordinance for safeguarding hospitals’ economic safety. The planned year-round compensation will give hospitals a certain level of economic and financial security for 2021. “This takes account of the most important demands made by the hospitals. With this clarity and security, the clinics can focus entirely on the care of Covid-19 patients without having to worry about the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic”, says the designated head of DKG, Dr. Gerald Gaß. 

 

Covid-19

  • Due to the exponentially rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, Chancellor Merkel and the 16 Prime Ministers of the states agreed on a package of measures after more than eleven hours of consultation on 22 March. As a result, and to defuse the “third wave”, the current lockdown in Germany has been extended until 18 April. That conference had a special focus on the Easter weekend with even stricter restrictions. The participants in the conference envisioned a “rest” time period from 1 April until 5 April, in which all stores (except for grocery stores on Saturday) would remain closed and non-essential employees would have an extra vacation day on that Thursday. The conference emphasised the holding rules regarding social contacts, which permit private meeting of two households and a maximum of five people (excluding children under 14). Group meetings in public space were also prohibited. The gastronomy sector, if it had been allowed to open before, depending on the state, would have also needed to close over the five-day period. Church services were asked to be held virtually.
  • The plan marked a reversal from the slow opening strategies the conference resolved in their prior meeting. Vaccination and test centres were permitted to stay open the whole time. Two days after their meeting, Chancellor Merkel and the 16 Prime Ministers of the states came together once more, taking those newly adopted decisions back, with Angela Merkel personally admitting her error in judgement and apologising to the public. The conference also discussed a possible prohibition of vacations. Due to legal reasons, those prohibitions were only feasible for vacation within the county.
  • While a strong plea to refrain from any kind of travelling was expressed, vacations abroad are technically still possible. Starting Sunday( 28 March), all airplane passengers arriving in Germany are obligated to take a Covid-19 test in the country of departure no longer than 48 hours before their flight. In addition to preventing the entry of infected individuals, it is also meant to decrease the risk of infections on the plane ride.

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