Germany’s Bundestag or the lower house of Parliament has agreed on nationwide binding rules for stricter measures in the fight against the third Covid-19 wave and high infection rates.
The so-called “emergency brake” now automatically applies if new local infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days exceed 100 for more than three days, reports Xinhua news agency.
The new rules include night-time curfews, school closures and stricter opening regulations for shops.
A higher incidence threshold was agreed to trigger the full closure of educational institutions.
Schools in Germany would only have to stop face-to-face teaching when the incidence reaches 165.
The amendments to the country’s Infection Protection Act still require formal approval by the Bundesrat, Parliament’s upper house.
To date, Germany’s Covid-19 response has been characterized by regional differences as the ultimate legal power rested with the country’s federal states.
Although Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state governments already agreed on the emergency brake earlier, not all states reacted accordingly in recent weeks.
In the Bundestag, a long debate preceded the decision on Wednesday.
Minister of Health Jens Spahn defended the measures as “appropriate, proportionate and suitable”.
“What we need is clarity and consistency,” said Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
It is necessary to become active on a national level if the already high infection rates increase further in certain parts of the country, he said.
German media reported that over 8,000 people protested against the new measures near the Reichstag building in Berlin.
Due to massive violations of health rules, such as not wearing face masks and ignoring the contact restrictions, the police disbanded the protest.
Despite the ongoing lockdown and the country’s accelerating vaccination campaign, Germany recorded 24,884 new cases on Wednesday, around 3,200 more than one week ago, according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI).
The seven-day incidence in Germany stood at 160.1 per 10,000 inhabitants.
To date, Germany has reported 3,205,939 confirmed coronavirus cases and 80,793 deaths.