Opinion: Court ruling gives German government carte blanche to fight COVID-19 | Reviews | DW


One thing needs to be said right away – it’s not a joke but a serious problem when the government of a free country forces citizens to restrict or cut off contact with other people. Or when the state forbids citizens to leave their homes at night and at night. And if he does, something really important must have happened to justify it.

And that, according to judges at the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, was the case when the so-called federal coronavirus emergency brake was activated between April and June of this year. Although the restrictions imposed by the German government on the populations of the various federal states to curb the spread of the coronavirus significantly violated various basic rights, the judges said the restrictions were in accordance with the constitution “in the context of the extremely dangerous situation of the pandemic ”.

Looking ahead, this means that whatever action federal and state lawmakers decide to take in the current dire COVID-19 situation, they can be sure they are acting at least largely in accordance with the constitution.

A bullet in the arm for the outgoing government

Of course, the current situation is hardly comparable to that of the spring. About 70% of Germans are now fully vaccinated and line up outside doctors’ offices and vaccination centers to receive their third booster. But the number of new infections is alarming, the new variant of omicron has sparked fear and hospitals are once again reporting huge workloads.

Jens Thurau, DW political affairs correspondent in Berlin

Meanwhile, politicians across the country – between the outgoing government and the new government – are embroiled in a gruesome and bitter dispute over who is to blame for the massive failures during the pandemic.

There are a lot of paradoxes and confusion in this current situation. Germany still has a relatively low vaccination rate, but at the same time most football stadiums are full for Bundesliga matches. And the Germans, whether they are vaccinated, recovering or not, are called upon – notably by the Federal President – to stay at home again if possible.

The decision of the highest German court in Karlsruhe is a blow to the outgoing government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Still in power for a few days, he wants to persuade the successors of the new coalition government – made up of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Free New Democrats (FDP) – to continue imposing new restrictions and apply the emergency brake again.

Within the new coalition government, which will likely take office next week, it is mainly the FDP that has warned against overly harsh measures and has repeatedly challenged the constitutionality of individual measures. These arguments are now invalidated.

Regional lockdowns could be a new normal

Meanwhile, Germany is once again grappling with a new wave of coronavirus. People in areas with high infection rates will likely have to adjust to some type of lockdown, perhaps even nationwide.

It is hardly comforting that after several weeks the number of infections has stopped increasing. Even though the Constitutional Court has now given politicians, whatever their ideology, a sort of carte blanche, it is high time that those responsible, even in this current dire situation, carefully weigh what is possible and what is not. is not.

We cannot afford another situation where things stop for the country, for the society, for the economy, for the culture and for life itself. And it would do the country good if its elected officials did not participate, as they have done in recent weeks, in stigmatizing and excluding people who, for whatever reason, have not yet been vaccinated.

Freedom comes with responsibility

Of course, there are many staunch opponents of vaccination, and many are using their protest against the COVID-19 measures simply to take revenge on the state they hate.

But the unvaccinated do not fall into this camp. It would be a cautious reaction to the court’s decision if politicians now tried to reach out to these people and speak to these people again, difficult as it often is. Especially since compulsory vaccination cannot help to break the current wave anyway.

In conclusion, however, the decision of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany is a clear warning to all those who loudly claim their right to freedom but always forget that freedom comes with responsibility. In this case, responsibility for those who are sick. And the responsibility of the overworked doctors and nurses who have been on the front lines in the fight against the virus for almost two years now.

This article was translated from German

Edited by: Jon Shelton


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