Status: 08/02/2022 11:23
Health and justice ministers have been wrestling with corona rules for the fall for weeks. A deal is now imminent. But for Lauterbach, this should not have been the last conflict.
Anyone who wants to know what Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach thinks can read in real time. Admonitions, warnings, observations, not a day goes by without a tweet from the minister.
At the top of his Twitter account are three happy faces smiling at you: himself and the green government duo, Annalena Baerbock and Robert Habeck. It’s a somewhat shaky selfie that Lauterbach pinned last December. “Now the actual project begins…”, he writes.
With Team Freedom on the government bench
Coincidentally or not, the Liberal coalition partner is missing from the picture. Almost as if Lauterbach wanted to hide the fact that together with the FDP, Team Freedom is now sitting on the government bench with Team Caution. For the minister berating Lauterbach, it became a challenge from the start. A circumstance that has already required compromises and defeats.
The failure of the general obligation to vaccinate, for example, or the end of most corona protection measures in March. At the time, in the spring, the restrictions were considerably reduced. This eliminated, for example, general mask requirements when shopping or at events as well as access rules such as 2G or 3G.
While the Liberals rejoice that they have forced a relaxation on the traffic light government, Lauterbach spoke in the Bundestag in March about a difficult compromise.
Where’s the plan for fall?
Such a compromise is again pending. Because Germany needs a plan for the possible next corona wave in autumn and winter. And the Infection Protection Act expires on September 23. If protective measures such as mask requirements or access restrictions are to continue to be possible afterwards, a new legal basis is necessary for this.
Lauterbach must negotiate this with Federal Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the FDP. A tedious process that has dragged on for several weeks. The two ministers interpret the initial situation very differently.
Bushman rules out lockdowns
Buschmann basically excludes interventions such as shutdowns, school closures and curfews. Quite different Lauterbach, who initially wants to keep the instrument box for protective measures as large as possible.
Especially since confidence in cooperation has probably suffered a little. Some say physician and epidemiologist Lauterbach fears being cheated by attorney Buschmann over the details of a possible deal. So it remains a difficult undertaking, which seems to have only started to move last week.
In conversation with the ARD Capital Studio says Lauterbach that the possibility of school closings will no longer exist. The talks would be concluded shortly. So far, justice and health ministers have also agreed that the requirement to wear masks indoors should play a role.
Countries demand more speed
Meanwhile, countries are growing impatient. They are always worried about not being involved enough. They depend on a legal basis from the federal government to be able to implement appropriate protective measures. State health ministers had called for a bill before the summer recess. With powers such as mask requirements, access restrictions and emergency school closures.
The Bavarian Minister of Health, Klaus Holetschek of the CSU, for example, accuses the federal government of a lack of transparency and dynamism in the preparation of the new infection protection law. Last week he was in Berlin for talks at the Federal Ministry of Health and asked Lauterbach to tell the federal states what measures he was planning. Lauterbach rebuffed him. “It was a missed opportunity to involve us and the countries in communication at an early stage,” says Holetschek. Instead, the SPD and FDP harassed each other on Twitter.
Partly overloaded emergencies
In medicine, ministers of health and justice are expected to reach a reasonable compromise. Christian Karagiannidis, a member of the Federal Government’s Expert Council, currently sees one major problem in particular. Due in particular to the chronic lack of staff and the numerous staff shortages caused by Corona, the emergencies are already very busy, sometimes overloaded. It’s unusual for the summer. He has never experienced anything like this, says the intensive care doctor. Karagiannidis speaks of a warning sign. “If we already have such a problem in summer, we will have a problem in autumn and winter.”
In order to counter an overload of the healthcare system, a compromise from the point of view of the intensive care doctor should in any case include a requirement for a mask inside. Additionally, Karagiannidis recommends optional measures such as access restrictions for indoor events, such as a daily test. “Whether and to what extent these measures are then used should depend on the infection process,” says Karagiannidis. “But we absolutely must have the possibility to do so, for example if the more dangerous Delta variant were to develop further.”
More than just Corona Ministers
The doctor has another expectation: “We have to make sure that Lauterbach gets away from this Corona problem alone.” Lauterbach was for a long time the first Minister of Health to be able to make a fundamental change in the health system, for example in the hospital sector or in the field of nursing. But here, too, Lauterbach will once again have to coordinate with the liberals.
Because the reforms will cost something and Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the FDP wants to keep the money together. For Lauterbach, it remains a tightrope walker with his liberal colleagues in the traffic light coalition. Especially, but not only, when it comes to infection control.