The second hard lockdown in Germany has begun and the chancellor once again had to defend her course in the corona crisis before parliament. How the debate in the Bundestag went.
This year, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) was faced with the interrogation by members of the Bundestag on Wednesday for the last time. The course of the federal government in the corona pandemic would be one of the central topics. Because the second hard lockdown since the start of the crisis started on Wednesday.
There was criticism of the direction of economic aid in the Corona crisis. The practice of handing out free FFP2 masks was discussed, as was the upcoming vaccination campaign. AfD politician Martin Sichert asked Merkel why family-run restaurants received less aid than fast-food chains like McDonalds. Fast food chains are certainly not more important to her, the chancellor assured. Merkel assured her that she could not make any concrete pledges for help here, but Treasury Secretary Altmaier would take up the matter again.
Christine Aschenbach-Dugnus of the FDP criticized the authorities’ approach to distribute FFP2 masks free of charge to vulnerable groups. In view of the long queues for pharmacies, Aschenbach-Dugnus accused the federal government of exposing those affected to an unnecessary risk given the contamination situation. The Chancellor replied that the procedure is currently feasible. At the same time, she assured that there will be targeted distribution of masks in January, for example by mailing them.
“A vaccination strategy cannot simply be laid down in law”
A few days before the expected approval of a first vaccine in Germany, the vaccination strategy was also discussed. The Chancellor did not rule out adjustments here. This could be necessary depending on the intake of the different vaccines, the CDU politician said. For example, the procedure depends on what the regulatory authorities have determined about the suitability of the vaccines for which group. ‘That’s why you can’t just prescribe a vaccination strategy as law.’ For example, no data is available yet for children.
Merkel took over a question from AfD member Uwe Witt, who warned of a risk from “genetically modified vaccines”. The Chancellor was quick to reply, “I can see from your question that you are not a fan of vaccination.” People laughed about it in the hallway. Merkel asked Witt not to mention genetically modified vaccines. The vaccine from Biontech and Pfizer contains “genetic components,” she said. The Chancellor assured that transparency would be guaranteed with regard to the available vaccines. She ruled out compulsory vaccination again.
The Chancellor also stressed the importance of the vaccination campaign. The target is “herd immunity,” which experts say should vaccinate 65 to 70 percent of the population. If more than 40, 50 or 60 percent of people did not want to be vaccinated, “then we will have to wear a mask for a long time”. Then herd immunity cannot be achieved.
Merkel is silent about the Wirecard scandal
In response to a question from left-wing MP Gesine Lötzsch, Merkel strictly rejected a special levy from top earners and rich to finance the billions in costs incurred in the Corona crisis. “We don’t want a property tax,” she said. “The core task is: how do we create growth? Because through growth we can also generate extra income. That will be the strategy.” Merkel also stressed that the federal government is not planning any cuts to social security benefits.
In addition to the pandemic, the difficult relationship with Russia and the Wirecard scandal also entered the debate. Merkel expressed skepticism about AfD leader Tino Chrupalla’s question as to whether the federal government plans to resume relations with Moscow. According to the Chancellor, it cannot be overlooked that serious events have taken place. She mentioned the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexej Navalny and the assassination attempt in the Kleiner Tiergarten in Berlin. It is the federal government’s wish to establish a good relationship with Moscow, Merkel said. “But you shouldn’t close your eyes to reality.” Against this background, Germany has a “very fair policy” towards Moscow.
Merkel did not provide specific answers to questions from the left and the FDP about the Wirecard scandal and the role of the federal government. Left-wing politician Fabio De Masi wanted to know why the Chancellor at the highest level in China had lobbied for the company, although a government official advised her against it. The FDP’s Florian Toncar confronted Merkel with a meeting with ex-minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, allegedly campaigning for Wirecard with the Chancellor. Merkel only said she would speak to the Bundestag committee of inquiry.