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Denmark rushes through emergency coronavirus law

Denmark's parliament on Thursday night unanimously passed an emergency coronavirus law which gives health authorities powers to force testing, treatment and quarantine with the backing of the police.

Denmark rushes through emergency coronavirus law
Only 95 out of 179 Danish MPs were present to vote on the emergency law. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson
The far-reaching new law will remain in force until March 2021, when it will expire under a sunset clause. 
 
“I was touched when I saw the whole Parliament standing up and voting for this,” Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told Danish state broadcaster DR after the law passed.
 
“It is time to put aside party politics and be together to do what it takes to bring Denmark safely through this situation.”
 
Jens Elo Rytter, law professor at Copenhagen University, said the measures were unlike anything passed in the last 75 years  “It is certainly the most extreme since the Second World War,” he told the Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There have been some powerful encroachments in various terror packages. But this goes further.” 
 
Trine Maria Ilsøe, DR's court correspondent, said that Danish citizens could face prosecution under the new law if they refused to comply with health authorities' demands. “It means that you could be sentenced to a punishment if you, for example, refuse to allow yourself to be tested for coronavirus,” she said.  
 
The Ministry of Health will now work with the Ministry of Justice on the details of how the police will work with health officials to enforce their demands. 
 
As well as enforcing quarantine measures, the law also allows the authorities to force people to be vaccinated, even though there is currently no vaccination for the virus. 
 
It also empowers them to prohibit access to public institutions, supermarkets and shops, public and private nursing homes and hospitals, and also to impose restrictions on access to public transport. 
 
Initially, the government wanted the law to give the police the right to enter private homes without a court order if there is a suspicion of coronavirus infection. But this was dropped after opposition from parties in the parliament. 
 
The parliamentary session was itself affected by the pandemic, with only 95 out of 179 MPs present for the vote, efforts made to ensure that MPs kept a safe distance from one another, and MPs voting by standing up. 
 

 

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COVID-19

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany’s spending in pandemic

The German Constitutional Court rejected challenges Tuesday to Berlin's participation in the European Union's coronavirus recovery fund, but expressed some reservations about the massive package.

Court turns down AfD-led challenge to Germany's spending in pandemic

Germany last year ratified the €750-billion ($790-billion) fund, which offers loans and grants to EU countries hit hardest by the pandemic.

The court in Karlsruhe ruled on two challenges, one submitted by a former founder of the far-right AfD party, and the other by a businessman.

They argued the fund could ultimately lead to Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, having to take on the debts of other EU member states on a permanent basis.

But the Constitutional Court judges ruled the EU measure does not violate Germany’s Basic Law, which forbids the government from sharing other countries’ debts.

READ ALSO: Germany plans return to debt-limit rules in 2023

The judgement noted the government had stressed that the plan was “intended to be a one-time instrument in reaction to an unprecedented crisis”.

It also noted that the German parliament retains “sufficient influence in the decision-making process as to how the funds provided will be used”.

The judges, who ruled six to one against the challenges, did however express some reservations.

They questioned whether paying out such a large amount over the planned period – until 2026 – could really be considered “an exceptional measure” to fight the pandemic.

At least 37 percent of the funds are aimed at achieving climate targets, the judges said, noting it was hard to see a link between combating global warming and the pandemic.

READ ALSO: Germany to fast-track disputed €200 billion energy fund

They also warned against any permanent mechanism that could lead to EU members taking on joint liability over the long term.

Berenberg Bank economist Holger Schmieding said the ruling had “raised serious doubts whether the joint issuance to finance the fund is in line with” EU treaties.

“The German court — once again — emphasised German limits for EU fiscal integration,” he said.

The court had already thrown out a legal challenge, in April 2021, that had initially stopped Berlin from ratifying the financial package.

Along with French President Emmanuel Macron, then chancellor Angela Merkel sketched out the fund in 2020, which eventually was agreed by the EU’s 27 members in December.

The first funds were disbursed in summer 2021, with the most given to Italy and Spain, both hit hard by the pandemic.

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