Politics

Merkel Bloc Pushing for More Central Power Over Virus Strategy

Photographer: Jonas Güttler/Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to push ahead with a bid to transfer powers to impose coronavirus restrictions from the regional to the federal level, as the German leader tries to reverse the latest surge in infections threatening Europe’s biggest economy.

Germany’s current “infection protection law” doesn’t allow for “common action” to tackle the pandemic because it leaves the enforcement of restrictions to the 16 states, Norbert Roettgen, a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, said in a position paper obtained by Bloomberg.

The paper argues that the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament controlled by Merkel’s ruling coalition, should legislate to “quickly fill this gap.” That would allow Merkel to impose the stricter nationwide lockdown she has been calling for and overrule the state leaders, some of whom have failed to enforce restrictions agreed with the chancellor.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Merkel has been forced to hold regular talks with the regional premiers that sometimes drag on for many hours and leave citizens confused about which measures apply to their state.

With September’s national election less than six months away, some senior politicians are also reluctant to impose tougher curbs on voters weary after months of partial lockdown.

Merkel this week backed a call by Armin Laschet, the CDU chairman and premier of North Rhine-Westphalia, for a short, sharp shutdown lasting two to three weeks.

It’s unclear if Merkel’s bloc will succeed in getting the legislation through both houses of parliament. It would not only have to pass the lower house, but also the upper house, or Bundesrat, where the 16 state governments are represented.

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