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Merkel: 'Emergency brake' can expire as planned

June 1, 2021

With COVID-19 cases declining across Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said special centralized measures can end. But she warned that the virus has not yet gone away.

People drinking beers outdoors at a bar in Andechs, Germany
With the falling infection rates people have once again been able to enter shops or enjoy outdoor diningImage: Andreas Gebert/Getty Images

The special powers that grant the federal government the ability to impose coronavirus restrictions nationwide can come to an end in June as planned, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Monday.

The Infection Protection Act was amended in April to include an "emergency brake" obliging Germany's 16 states to enforce uniform restrictions when COVID-19 infection rates get too high.

Germany has seen the infection rates fall across the board in recent weeks, meaning that the federally imposed restrictions are no longer deemed necessary, with Merkel saying they can now "expire."

"If something develops with mutations, which we hope won't happen, then we can reactivate it anytime," she added.

What did Angela Merkel say?

The chancellor pushed for the implementation of the "emergency brake" after the country's 16 states failed to pursue a uniform set of restrictions as had been previously agreed upon.

She said that the brake had added "clarity." She also thanked people for their efforts over the past two months which had brought the infection rate down to below 40 new infections per 100,000 people in the past seven days for Germany as a whole.

She also gave a warning that the hurdles had not been completely cleared. "Corona is still here, even if the infection rates are fortunately declining now," she said.

CDU lawmaker questions ending the special powers

Not everyone agreed with her, however, with a lawmaker and member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Erwin Rüddel, telling the Osnabrücker Zeitung on Tuesday that he thought it better to keep the "emergency brake."

"If the infection rate stays so low, then the emergency brake won't come into effect and we can once again enjoy most of our freedoms," he said.

"But if the infection rates rise again, it's important that we can react quickly to keep the numbers in check," he added.

What did the 'emergency brake' do?

The uniform measures imposed by the "emergency brake" included nighttime curfews, school closures, contact restrictions and curbs on sports, leisure and trade.

The restrictions automatically came into effect in regions where the infection rate was above 100 per 100,000 people over a seven-day period, but would revert to local regulations once that number fell below 50 for several days in a row.

Lawmakers had planned from the beginning to let the powers expire at the end of June.

If regional infections should surge again after June, then it will be up to each state to impose measures, but the "emergency brake" can be invoked again if there is a nationwide spike in cases.

Curfew across Germany

ab/rs (dpa, Reuters)