Public Policy Dynamics Germany #9
Health and Politics in Germany
|Total COVID-19 cases:||3,425,982|
|14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:||327.4|
|Total COVID-19 deaths:||83,276|
- The German Constitutional Court has ruled that Germany’s climate protection law, which obliges the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990, is partly unconstitutional. A group of climate activists complained about the current law, arguing that it is not far-reaching enough. The law was adopted in 2019. The German Government will be mandated to improve its emission targets for 2031 onwards if 2030 targets are missed.
- Several German cities like Cologne, Berlin and Mannheim have started focussed Covid-19 vaccination programmes within socially disadvantaged boroughs. The cities have even lifted the vaccine priority list for the respective boroughs. Since the projects were considered huge successes, several other cities could follow. Furthermore, partly in support of the Covid-19 recovery, the German Federal Government is planning on merging data from several cancer registries.
- The German Government is planning on lifting restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from a Covid-19 infection as soon as next week. Most of the German states have already adopted similar rules. The Federal Government is now planning on implementing rules for the country as a whole.
The German Constitutional Court has ruled that the countries’ climate protection law, obliging the country to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030, compared to 1990, is partly unconstitutional. The law also sets limits for emissions across various sectors, like energy, transport, buildings, and agriculture. Should these limits be missed, certain obligations to improve the effort would come into effect.
Several climate activists, for example members of the Fridays for Future movement or the BUND, complained about the law in place, arguing that it does not reach far enough and that current generations live at the expenses of future generations. Many climate activists, scientists and members of German society criticised the law as not ambitious enough when it was adopted in 2019 by the reigning coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Conservatives (CDU/CSU). The Court based its ruling on the argument that the current law only determines greenhouse gas emission goals until 2030. Not determining targets for 2031 onwards would violate younger people’s constitutional right to a humane future. The Government is required to make long-term commitments regarding climate protection.
The reactions to the ruling were universally positive. Climate activists and members of the civil society celebrated, calling the ruling ground-breaking and a clear statement for more climate protection. Even politicians from the reigning coalition, who adopted the current law in the first place, acknowledged the ruling as “big”, “meaningful” and even “epochal”.
Just a few days after the ruling, the Federal Environmental Minister Svenja Schulze and the Federal Minister of Finance Olaf Scholz, both members of the Social Democrats, proposed new targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Until 2030, emissions should be reduced by 65% instead of only 55%, compared to 1990. Furthermore, the plan stipulates that Germany should reduce emissions by 88% by 2040 and be climate-neutral by 2045. By mid-May, the coalition parties want to discuss the new regulations in the federal cabinet.
Several German cities have started focussed vaccination programmes within socially disadvantaged boroughs. On 3 May, the city of Cologne started such a programme in its borough Köln-Chorweiler. The borough has an incidence of over 500 cases per 100,000, whereas the city’s incidence is under 200. People in boroughs like Köln-Chorweiler often live in tighter spaces and have jobs that cannot be carried out at home. Mobile vaccination teams are assigned to vaccinate quickly, non-bureaucratic and without appointments. The city even abandoned the Covid-19 vaccine priority list for the borough. For the project, the city received an extra contingent of vaccines from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. In order to get their shot, people waited in long lines for several hours. Since the project was assessed as a success, the city is planning on expending similar projects into other socially disadvantaged boroughs. Cities like Berlin or Mannheim could follow Cologne’s example.
The German Federal Government is planning on merging the data from several cancer registries. Over the past years, different registries regarding the prevalence, mortality, tumour stage allocation and survival rate of different kind of cancers have been in place. Furthermore, all 16 states in Germany have implemented their own registries on the courses and therapies of diseases. The merge of the registries centralises the data and makes it available on a national level. This could be a huge advantage for research regarding the treatment and the development of new therapies in the field. Several stakeholders explicitly welcomed the plans.
The Covid-19 vaccination campaign in Germany is still in full swing. On 6 May, about 25.4 million people have received at least their first shot, which is equivalent to about 30.6% of the population. About 8.6% are fully vaccinated. This is contributing to a decline in Covid-19 case numbers and fuels discussions about the lifting of restrictions for people who are fully vaccinated or who recovered from a Covid-19 infection.
The German Government is working on compliance regulations, which could be brought into effect as soon as 9 May. People who are fully vaccinated or who recovered from a Covid-19 infection would not be obligated to submit a negative test in several instances. This would include appointments at hairdressers and shopping. Also, they would be able to meet in private without restrictions. Even the current curfew would not apply for these people. Most of the German states have already adopted similar rules to the ones being discussed. The Federal Government is now planning on implementing rules for the country as a whole.
Critics of the standing restrictions, like the Liberal Party, are fighting the implementation of certain measures, especially the recently imposed, nightly curfew. They assess the curfew as unconstitutional and called for the Federal Constitutional Court. The Court dismissed emergency appeals against the Government's decision to impose curfews. Virologists, on the other hand, urge to keep the standing restrictions for all citizens due to the still relatively high number in cases as well as the risk of new variants of the virus.
Unlike many other European countries, Germany has yet to present a plan for the reopening of places like bars and restaurants as well as cultural and sports venues. Several prime ministers and high-ranking politicians from states with relatively low case numbers are calling for a swift opening of restaurant terraces and holiday apartments.