In a joint statement by the parliamentary leaders, the SPD, Greens and the FDP also ruled out future lockdowns over autumn and winter, and said they don’t plan to force people to return to home office working.
“School closures, lockdowns and curfews will in any case no longer happen with us and are also disproportionate in the current situation,” said SPD parliamentary group vice-chairman Dirk Wiese.
As The Local has been reporting, the parties want to allow the current pandemic emergency powers to expire next month.
If the coalition talks succeed, the future government would instead bring in laws to allow state governments to implement rules like mandatory masks, tests in schools, social distancing and restrictive entry to public places and events until spring next year.
The measures could be applied “to the extent necessary to prevent a renewed dynamic spread of Covid-19,” according to a written summary of proposals obtained by German regional paper, the Tagesspiegel.
However, this new legislation would expire on March 20th, 2022, “at the latest”, the draft proposals say, meaning nationwide Covid restrictions would also fall away on this date unless new legislation was brought in down the line.
That means that mandatory masks and regulations like ‘3G’ (access only for vaccinated, recovered and people with negative tests) and ‘2G’ (entrance only for vaccinated and recovered people) could all be coming to an end.
German health experts have previously said that they believe the pandemic in Germany will end in spring 2022.
What do we know about Germany’s Covid rules?
The German Bundestag first enacted special pandemic powers, which fall under a clause declaring the country to be in an ‘epidemic situation of national importance’, in March 2020.
These have been the legal basis for introducing measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 so far, though the fact that they allow governments to set laws without parliamentary oversight has been controversial.
In recent days, Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) has argued that the pandemic ‘state of emergency’ should be allowed to expire due to increased vaccination coverage in Germany.
With the emergency legislation due to run its course on November 25th, the three ‘traffic light’ coalition parties also said on Wednesday that they were unwilling to extend them further.
Instead, the parties would introduce the bridging legislation detailed above to allow state governments to implement Covid measures.
A man wears a medical mask on a local train in Stuttgart. Mandatory mask-wearing could end in March next year. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Schmidt
“A serious danger to public health in the entire Federal Republic, which is a prerequisite under the Infection Protection Act for establishing an epidemic situation of national scope, does not continue to exist in our view,” Wiese said.
According to the potential future coalition partners, these powers will now be written into the Infection Protect Act.
Much like the emergency pandemic clause, they would allow states to introduce measures like alcohol bans, contact tracing, health passes and masks on public transport in response to infection and hospitalisation rates until March 2022.
“The state of emergency must not become a permanent state. We have to get to a new normality, and as quickly as possible,” FDP Secretary General Volker Wissing told the Funke Media Group.
“The German Bundestag must decide things again – not the federal government with far-reaching powers.”
Covid-related benefits to continue until March 2022
As well continued powers to implement restrictions, a number of pandemic-related social benefits will also be extended until March 20th.
“There are some that we definitely have to maintain from our point of view,” said Greens parliamentary leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt.
These include easier access to basic benefits, especially for artists and freelancers, and additional coverage of children’s sick days through wage replacement benefits, meaning parents can claim for 30 days rather than 10, or 60 rather than 20 if they’re a single parent.
In order to increase the vaccination rate and make progress with so-called ‘booster’ jabs, the traffic light parties have also laid out plans for an expert commission on vaccination coverage.
With the commission in place, “we will work together with practitioners to find ways to significantly accelerate the progress of vaccinations,” their draft proposals state.