German gov't approves uniform nationwide COVID-19 response measures
The German government approved on Tuesday an amendment to the country's Infection Protection Act that would provide a legal basis for uniform COVID-19 measures across the country, Trend reports citing Xinhua.
"The federal emergency brake will then no longer be a matter of interpretation but will apply automatically," Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a press conference on Tuesday when announcing the amendment.
Once the seven-day incidence rate of reported COVID-19 cases in the past seven days per 100,000 citizens exceeds 100 for three consecutive days, the Infection Protection Act would mandate contact restrictions, local night-time curfews, and the closure of non-essential shops as well as leisure and sports facilities.
Until now, Germany's COVID-19 response has been characterized by regional differences as the ultimate legal power rested with the country's federal states. Although Merkel and the state governments agreed on an emergency brake in case the seven-day incidence rate exceeds 100, not all states reacted accordingly in recent weeks.
"The confusion about what applies when in one county or another, or what does not apply when, that will be over," Merkel said.
Despite the ongoing lockdown and vaccination campaign, Germany's seven-day incidence rate rose from around 136 on the previous day to 140.9 on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). A week ago, the figure was only 123.
The nationwide emergency brake was "overdue," Merkel said, adding that the "third wave of the pandemic has a tight grip" on the country.
Infection figures are rising and the number of people in intensive care treatment is also on the increase. The German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) warned that the previous peak in the number of intensive care patients could already be repeated before the end of April.
"We have to assume that we now have to take in between 50 and 100 new COVID-19 intensive care patients each day throughout Germany," DIVI President Gernot Marx told the German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine on Tuesday.
Following the German government's decision, the law still has to be passed by the Bundestag and Bundesrat, respectively the lower and upper houses of parliament, although Merkel stressed that the procedure would be accelerated where possible.
To date, more than 3.02 million COVID-19 infections have been officially registered in Germany since the outbreak of the pandemic. The death toll climbed to 78,746 on Tuesday, according to the RKI.