Public Policy Dynamics Germany #8

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in Germany

Total COVID-19 cases:3,153,699
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:312.4
14-day change:+39.9
Total COVID-19 deaths:80,006
14-day rise:2,993
  • The Union parties (Christian Democrats and Christian Socials) have mutually agreed on a candidate for the Chancellorship in September’s federal election. After Markus Söder, party leader of the Christian Social Union and Prime Minister of Bavaria, bowed out of the competition for the candidacy, Armin Laschet, party leader of the Christian Democratic Union and Prime Minister of North-Rhine/Westphalia was announced as the party’s candidate. Meanwhile, the Green Party appointed Annalena Baerbock as their candidate for the Chancellorship.
  • The Federal Parliament of Germany has adopted a law which allows for the implementation of a uniform set of restrictions and rules regarding the Covid-19 pandemic across the whole country, once the critical incidence value of 100 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period in a certain region is reached. This is the first time since the outbreak that the whole country is facing a harmonised set of rules.
  • Germany’s Minister of Health Jens Spahn has announced the possibility of abandoning the Covid-19 vaccine priority list by June 2021. The reason for this is the massively rising number of available vaccine doses in the second quarter of the year. Meanwhile, several States opened the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups. Just a few weeks ago, the states’ ministers of health and the federal minister of health agreed on restricting the vaccine for certain age groups of the population due to rare side effects.

Politics

  • The two front-runner parties for the German federal election in September of 2021 have appointed their candidates for the Chancellorship.
  • Annalena Baerbock was nominated as the candidate for the Chancellorship by her party Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Greens). Baerbock is the party’s co-chairwoman. By many she is described as tenacious, paying attention to detail, and representing the centrist part of her party. For several months, it was unclear whether she or her co-chairman Robert Habeck would run for Chancellor. The duo became party leaders in 2018. Both were assessed as strong alternatives by a large part of the party. While Habeck was leading the popularity polls ever since, Baerbock was able to catch up in recent time. The announcement of Baerbock’s candidacy ended weeks of speculations of who would run. It was the first time in party history that the Greens appointed a candidate for the Chancellorship. Recent polls have the party in close second place for the federal election in 2021 behind the conservate CDU/CSU. Baerbock’s nomination will have to be adopted on the party conference in June. This step is seen to be a formality.
  • While the Greens’ process of choosing a candidate for the Chancellorship was a smooth one, the Union parties of CDU/CSU witnessed a relatively rough fight between Armin Laschet, party leader of the CDU in Germany, and Markus Söder, party leader of the CSU in Bavaria. Since the CSU is a regional party in Bavaria, the CDU candidate for the Chancellorship usually has the first access right for the candidacy. This year, however, Armin Laschet, who is facing relatively bad popularity polls, was facing Markus Söder as an opponent. Even though the CDU’s party board backed Laschet, Söder did not step down, referring to his far better popularity poll results within the party base. After a week of public debate and several demonstrations of sympathy by high-ranking CDU members, the CDU’s party board held its second meeting. Following a six-hour-long discussion, the board voted in favour of Laschet once more. This time, Söder opted to follow the board’s decision, stepped down and offered to support Laschet in the mutual CDU/CSU campaign. It remains to be seen what impact this unprecedented internal contest will have on the campaign as well as on the election itself.

 

Health

  • The German Parliament has amended the Infection Protection Act, approving a set of rules regarding the regulation of contact restrictions. These restrictions are uniformly affecting the whole country and assign more competences to the Federal Government. It is the first time since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that Germany is facing uniform restrictions, once the seven-day incidence rises over the threshold value of 100 per 100,000 people over a period of three days in a row in a certain region. This “emergency brake” has long been discussed, yet never been properly implemented.
  • While the Federal Government sees the amendment as a potential watershed moment in fighting the pandemic, opposition parties heavily criticise major parts of it. Potentially the most controversial aspect of the amendment is the implementation of a curfew from 10pm until 5am, with exceptions for emergencies, people walking or jogging alone until midnight and other significant reasons. It is the first measure of this kind since the beginning of the pandemic. While the government expects this measure to decrease people’s mobility, politicians from the Liberals are strongly opposing it, even threatening to call the Federal Constitutional Court. On 22 April, the amendment passed the Bundesrat, a legislative body which represents the 16 states. The law is in effect from 23 April until 30 June 2021.
  • Technically, the Federal Government has been in charge of determining restriction measures. In practice, Germany’s federal system assigned the 16 states relatively high control, allowing for an implementation at will. In the past weeks, different approaches regarding the implementation of measures led to huge disparities in rules in place across state’s boarders. With the number of Covid-19 cases increasing for several weeks without any sign of relief, the federal government decided to act and take power on this topic. 

 

Covid-19

  • Germany’s Covid-19 vaccination campaign is picking up speed. While the progress in the first quarter of 2021 has been fairly slow, the number of people being vaccinated per day is accelerating. One of the main reasons for this is the involvement of doctor’s offices into the campaign due to higher quantities of vaccine doses. Since the quantity is expected to rise even more over the next few weeks, the federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn announced the possibility of lifting the vaccine priority list. This list, developed by the Standing Committee on Vaccination at the Robert Koch Institute (STIKO), determined the order, in which different societal groups can expect to get vaccinated. According to Mr. Spahn, the lift of the priority list could happen as early as June. At that point, every citizen over the age of 18 should be able to make an appointment for a vaccination. It is expected that the next conference of the 16 Prime Ministers of the states and the Federal Government will debate this issue in further detail.
  • Meanwhile, several states opened the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups. Among the states lifting the restrictions are Bavaria, Berlin, Saxony, and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Prior to the lift, the AstraZeneca vaccine had been restricted for citizens under the age of 60 years. The reason for this decision were reports of several cases of a special type of blood clot called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST). States like Brandenburg and Hamburg criticised the opening of the vaccine for every citizen as “populist and dubious”.

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