Merkel’s Cabinet to Pass Lockdown Law to Tackle Surge in Cases

Merkel’s Cabinet to Pass Lockdown Law to Tackle Surge in Cases

Merkel pushed for the law, which updates existing legislation and needs approval from both houses of parliament, after some of Germany’s 16 regions failed to impose curbs agreed with her government despite rising case numbers.

It would make tighter restrictions mandatory in virus hotspots, potentially including nighttime curfews and the closing of non-essential stores and schools.

Germany has struggled to control a renewed outbreak and local officials have been hesitant to impose fresh measures just months before national elections. The deadlock came to a head last month, when Merkel apologized after pulling a planned hard Easter lockdown and then warned she planned to take greater control.

The number of infections rose on Tuesday to 140.9 per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the highest in nearly three months, according to the Robert Koch Institute. The worsening outbreak comes despite faster vaccinations, which hit a daily record last week.

Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he’s “firmly convinced” the law will be approved at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, which has been brought forward by one day to speed the process.

“This will create uniform rules for Germany on what to do when the infection numbers rise,” Scholz said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio.

“We have a good chance of putting the pandemic behind us in the summer once millions of citizens have been vaccinated, but we must prevent this being significantly delayed by rising infections,” he added. “These are regulations that are necessary, that are right and that are easy to grasp.”

Some local officials have questioned whether the law is needed and raised doubts about its compatibility with Germany’s constitutional rules on power sharing between the federal and regional governments.

Merkel’s cabinet is also expected to approve a regulation requiring companies to offer Covid-19 tests to on-site employees. The requirement had been voluntary, with about 60% of firms complying, but that is insufficient and all companies must now provide the tests, according to Labor Minister Hubertus Heil.

The regulation, which is set to take effect next Monday, applies to the public sector and private firms, Heil said on ARD television. Scholz said companies will have to pay for the tests themselves as a contribution to the country’s battle against the pandemic.

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