Merkel Keeps Curfew Powers After Emergency Court Review
(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government can continue to impose nighttime curfews after Germany’s highest court rejected emergency bids to suspend the controversial lockdown law.
The legality of the contentious measure is still being decided, and the outcome is open, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe said Wednesday in an emailed statement. At least 315 suits have been filed to contest the law.
“There is yet no ruling on whether nighttime curfews are in line with the constitution,” the court said. “Such a ruling can’t be made in emergency proceedings. The issue will now be scrutinized in the main case.”
Merkel’s governing coalition pushed through the legislation in April after failing to find common ground with state leaders on steps to fight a renewed surge Covid-19 infections. The law -- set to expire at the end of June -- automatically triggers tighter restrictions in virus hotspots, including the curfews as well as closing schools and non-essential stores.
The preliminary ruling offers some relief for Merkel and her conservative bloc, which has been slipping in national polls less than five months before elections that will determine her successor.
Last week, the government was dealt a blow when the court ruled that its law to combat climate change needs to be fixed. The judges determined it was partially unconstitutional because delays in implementing the bulk of the emissions cuts violates the rights of young people and children. To respond to the court’s objections to that law, Merkel’s government on Wednesday proposed a plan to pull forward its transition to climate neutrality by five years to 2045.
Another setback on pandemic policy could have damaged the credentials of Merkel’s conservatives as they seek to counter the up-and-coming Greens by playing up their government experience.
Germany remains in partial lockdown as officials grapple with a third wave of the virus, but accelerating vaccinations and declining infections have raised hopes authorities can start to ease some restrictions.
The country’s contagion rate has been steadily declining for over a week and fell to 132.8 infections per 100,000 people over seven days on Wednesday -- the lowest level since April 11, but still above the target rate.
Under the law, a so-called “emergency break” gets triggered when the local seven-day incidence rate rises above 100. The curbs include curfews, a limit on private gatherings to one person from another household and the closing of sporting and cultural venues. Restaurants and bars can only open for takeout, and overnight tourist stays are prohibited.
The curfew from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. was the most contested element of the law, and some scientists questioned whether the measure really helps stop infections.
The rules allow for some exceptions like emergencies or when people need to leave the house to go to work or take care of a dependent or an animal. People are also allowed to do sports outside during the curfew time but only if they are alone.
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