Debate on easing – Habeck is also stepping on the brakes

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Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck presents the federal government’s plans. © Kay Nietfeld/dpa

The next Corona round of the federal and state governments is planned for February 16. Will there then be opening prospects? Even the traffic light coalition does not agree on this.

Berlin – Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck (Greens) do not see the time for easing the corona crisis yet – the FDP and CSU, on the other hand, are pushing for rapid opening steps.

After Scholz, Habeck has now dampened expectations: “Of course we need an opening perspective, but the easing has to come at the right time,” said the Economics Minister to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “The omicron wave has not yet broken.”

Scholz recently made a similar statement. The coalition partner FDP, on the other hand, has long been calling for the rules to be relaxed soon. The corona numbers in Germany are currently reaching record values, but advocates of opening steps argue that the course of the disease in the case of an omicron infection is usually rather mild. Finance Minister Christian Linder (FDP) recently pointed out that the legal basis for the current corona measures will expire on March 19 anyway.

Lauterbach warns

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) again warned against hasty steps. “Our strategy has worked well so far,” he told the “Bild am Sonntag”. With targeted measures and boosters, it was possible to protect the elderly and those who were previously ill. “But if we relax too early now, we unnecessarily question our own success and risk new, dangerous infections and an extension of the wave. What we have built up in weeks, we can gamble away in days.”

The new Greens chairwoman Ricarda Lang told the “Tagesspiegel”: “I don’t believe in an outbidding competition for the relaxation of demands.” Citizens have already seen enough empty promises during the pandemic.

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), on the other hand, asked the federal government to submit an opening plan. “If we can be sure that the health system will not be overloaded, freedom rights should no longer take a back seat as in other phases of the pandemic,” said the CSU boss of the “Bild am Sonntag”. “We should take further steps to open up culture, sport and trade if the number of hospitals remains stable. The consistent use of FFP2 masks allows contact restrictions to be lifted.”

Habeck: “reason for cautious hope”

Habeck also pleaded for uniformity in the easing. “I think it’s important that we coordinate the individual steps, which comes first,” he said. “We have to see how the pandemic develops. In Germany we have a comparatively low vaccination rate, especially among the elderly population. But there is reason for cautious hope.”

The next top-level talks between the prime ministers and Scholz are scheduled for February 16. Nationwide easing could be agreed there. On January 24, the federal and state governments agreed to develop “opening perspectives” as soon as the health system could be overburdened. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had repeatedly stated that the peak of the omicron wave in Germany would probably be reached in mid-February.

Habeck assured that the Corona economic aid would be made available “as long as it is necessary”. So far, the aid is limited to the end of March. The federal government wants to check whether they will be extended. “Should it be necessary to extend it again to ensure the survival of hard-hit companies, then we will do so and the necessary funds will be available,” assured Habeck.

Poll: Majority in favor of easing

According to an Insa survey commissioned by “Bild am Sonntag”, for the first time in a long time there is a majority in the population that is in favor of opening steps. According to this, 49 percent are in favor of easing, 44 percent are against it. When asked about the usefulness of individual measures, 53 percent stated that they no longer found the 2G rules in retail to be useful (useful: 42 percent). Contact restrictions for the vaccinated would be abolished by 66 percent and retained by 27 percent. 49 percent no longer think 2G plus in gastronomy makes sense and 47 percent makes sense. dpa

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