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German government votes to extend emergency coronavirus powers

German government votes to extend emergency coronavirus powers

German government votes to extend emergency coronavirus powers

After a tight vote, the German Bundestag has extended the government’s emergency pandemic powers for an extra three months, until the end of November. 

German government retains emergency powers until November

The emergency pandemic powers - which recognise an “epidemic situation of national relevance” and thus allow the government to override parliamentary checks to implement exceptional measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, such as making masks compulsory or forcing businesses to close - have been in place since March 2020. 

They were originally due to expire at the end of August, but after a close vote on Wednesday that saw the government pass through an extension by 325 votes to 253, the emergency powers will remain in place until the end of November. 

“The pandemic is unfortunately still not over,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, defending the extension. He said that the federal states and local authorities still needed a legal basis for such measures as making masks compulsory on public transportation, while there is still such a high number of unvaccinated people. With the highly-contagious Delta variant spreading quickly in Germany, Spahn said the aim remains to avoid overloading the healthcare system in the autumn

Opposition parties criticise government’s unchecked powers

The extension did, however, attract vocal criticism from some quarters, with all of the opposition parties in the Bundestag voting against it. They argued that the high vaccination rate has calmed the situation in Germany, and that power should now be returned to parliament. 

FDP Health Expert Christine Aschenburg-Dugnus warned against a “continuation of the automatic and undifferentiated encroachment on fundamental rights,” while Manuala Rotterman from the Greens argued that the emergency laws gave Spahn the unprecedented power to fritter away billions of euros of public money. The health minister has previously come under fire for paying inflated prices for masks and other protective equipment. 

Abi

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Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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