Et makes a difference whether someone “welcomes” something or just “notes”. In the first draft of the decision for the most recent meeting of the Prime Ministers’ Conference (MPK) on Monday, it was still said that the heads of government of the federal states “welcome” that Federal Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD) would inform them “in the future in good time” if the status as Vaccinated or as a recovered person should change. The wording came from Sunday. A day and a hearty political brawl later, the decision only said that it was “acknowledged” that Lauterbach would proceed in this way in the future. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) is said to have said, according to a report from participants, that such behavior by the minister is still missing.
How could it possibly come this far? The new minister, a social democrat, also enjoys recognition in Union circles. But recently the tolerably harmonious togetherness has suffered a fair amount of damage. The starting point was the Federal Council meeting on January 14th. Lauterbach gave his first speech there, found words of praise for the cooperation with the federal states and – as usual – tried to provide detailed information about the pandemic. Among other things, it was about the fact that the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) and the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) would announce new regulations on the convalescent status in the future.
Lauterbach told the members of the Federal Council that they would be informed and would not have to regularly check the websites of the two institutes themselves. “Of course you will then receive a message from us, and if you raise any objections, they will of course be taken into account.” The Prime Ministers of Hesse, Volker Bouffier (CDU), and Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow (Die Linke ), which Lauterbach reportedly assured in a confidential conversation during the Federal Council meeting that he would be kept up to date. Just a few hours later, the RKI then published a new regulation: The recovered status now lasts three months instead of six.
Since then, the annoyance of many prime ministers towards the health minister has built up. On Monday she discharged herself at the MPK meeting. Above all, Bouffier took on Lauterbach. As a result, you “lost a massive amount of trust,” said the CDU man. In the fight against the pandemic, the well-intentioned would also be lost. When Söder wanted to know from Lauterbach how the procedure should be imagined, whether Lauterbach was sitting with the people at the institute, Scholz is said to have stalled the survey. Not even the party friends Manuela Schwesig and Malu Dreyer, prime ministers of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Rhineland-Palatinate, are said to have stepped into the breach for Lauterbach. Even he himself was guilty, it is said.
The confusion arose because the RKI’s assessment went far beyond what politicians were prepared for. Both Berlin and the federal states expected a reduction in the recovered status when it came to the question of whether and how long an infected person would have to be in isolation or a contact person in quarantine. The fact that there would be changes on this point had already been discussed in the Bundestag, Lauterbach’s Parliamentary State Secretary and party friend Sabine Dittmar reported on January 13, so the minister and the federal states knew about it.
The RKI then surprisingly announced on its website that the shortening also applies immediately to the general handling of those who have recovered, i.e. also to non-infected and non-contact people. This meant, for example, that people whose positive PCR test was more than three months old and who were therefore no longer considered to have recovered no longer belonged to the 2-G group in public life.
The minister is said to have been caught off guard himself
Lauterbach is said to have assured the MPK on Monday that he had been caught off guard by the RKI’s expansion. There was talk of a “personal unpreparedness”. From circles in his house it was said on Tuesday that a “major communication problem” had arisen in relation to the question of those who had recovered. In order to avoid something similar in the future, a procedure is being worked out together with the RKI to inform the ministry in good time about upcoming changes in such questions. As long as there is no imminent danger, one must take the time to prepare such steps “in the political sphere because they also have political consequences”.
However, the underlying Corona Protection Measures Exception Ordinance, which was changed at the Federal Council meeting on January 17, should not be changed on this point. The right of referral, which has now been applied for the first time, continues to apply, giving the specialist level quasi-legislative powers: if the RKI and the PEI consider changes necessary on the basis of scientific findings, for example in the vaccination or convalescence status, and publish these, they will have the force of law. In this way, one wants to be able to react more quickly, especially to acute threats such as the current omicron wave. So far, the institutes have given recommendations to the ministry, which the ministry then takes into account in ordinances or other legal acts.
Time was often lost as a result. Lauterbach is basically behind the reduced status for those who have recovered, as can be heard. According to the new legal situation, he could only have stopped them if they had concerns about the content, which he could not report in view of the RKI’s expertise. The new regulation does not allow political influence.
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