Traffic light agrees to change the Infection Protection Act

DThe changes to corona protection decided on Thursday in the Bundestag mean that masks have to be worn in all medical practices from October onwards, just like in clinics. So far, the decision on this has been the responsibility of the federal states. In contrast to the federal government's original plans, however, the obligation to wear a mouth and nose cover on airplanes will be abolished. The requirement for long-distance public transport by bus and train remains in place. The amendment of Infection Protection Act became necessary as it expires on September 23rd.

Parliament adopted the amendments with the votes of the government factions. The federal government now only prescribes the FFP2 mask and test requirements in the health and care sectors as well as in long-distance transport on land, but allows the states additional rules. This includes the obligation to wear masks in local transport and indoors for gastronomy, sports and culture. However, the countries must exempt currently tested people from the obligation indoors. They can make exceptions for those who have recovered and those who have been vaccinated.

The federal states may also introduce a mask requirement in schools if face-to-face teaching would otherwise be endangered, but not for elementary school students. Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) made it clear that there would be no bans on demonstrations, no lockdowns, no school closures or contact bans. If the infection situation worsens, the countries can order further steps, such as personal restrictions, distance requirements or wearing a mask outdoors. The opposition’s proposals were rejected, including the Union faction’s proposal to make the mask requirement in public transport dependent on the situation and also to allow surgical masks. The initiative also turned against the institution-related vaccination requirement in health and care facilities.

Lauterbach defends himself

Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) was confident that the country was better prepared for autumn than before: "We will have the situation under control." He defended the suspension of the mask requirement on airplanes, which had previously been a nationwide element. Against the accusation that land transport was disadvantaged, he replied that far fewer people were traveling in planes and that the air circulation there was "not perfect" but "much more intensive" than in buses or trains. According to the law, however, an ordinance is possible to reintroduce the obligation to wear a mask.

Criticism had also come from the countries beforehand, but they were able to assert themselves with the mask exceptions indoors. Lauterbach said the federal states could now "offer precisely what is necessary". In addition to the protective measures, he also referred to new vaccines, better data on hospital occupancy and more medicines against Covid-19: "I hope that this is the last winter with protective measures." The Federal Council still has to approve the laws, then they will apply from April 1 October to April 7, 2023.

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