Germany: Protest erupts as parliament votes on COVID rules

Thousands of protesters massed outside of Germany’s parliament on Wednesday as legislators voted in favour of a proposal to grant the government wider powers to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to amend the Infection Protection Act so federal authorities can force coronavirus lockdowns and curfews in areas with high infection rates, even if regional leaders resist them.

She has said the legislation is needed now with Germany “firmly” in the grips of a “third wave”, as case numbers rise in several parts of the country.

To date, a patchwork approach has characterised the pandemic response across Germany’s 16 states with lockdown measures decided at the state level.

Critics say this strategy has led to confusion, with governors interpreting rules agreed with the federal government in different ways, despite having similar infection rates.

The lower house of parliament voted 342-250 in favour of the amendment on Wednesday, with 64 abstentions. The upper house, where state governments are represented, is due to consider the proposed change on Thursday.

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