I.In the internal coalition dispute over the plan of Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) to distribute unofficial protective masks free of charge to the needy, leading politicians of the CDU have stood behind the minister and reprimanded the SPD for their sharp attacks on Spahn.
At the meeting of the CDU presidium on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, according to participants, that everyone supported Spahn. The allegations of the coalition partner are not covered by the facts. The SPD is trying to put the corona policy in a bad light. The CDU chairman Armin Laschet called the calls for resignation, which the SPD had directed to Spahn, according to the information an “attempt to collect points with negative campaigning”. That doesn’t work, says Laschet. The SPD is playing with people’s fears.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday in Berlin that Minister Spahn had “made it very clear why allegations are unfounded”, that the health ministry always put user safety first and that the masks were infection-proof. That is why the masks ended up in the national reserve, in which protective equipment is kept ready in the event of a pandemic. The expansion of this reserve was a central lesson from the sometimes chaotic conditions at the beginning of the Corona crisis more than a year ago.
Spahn rejects criticism
Even before the government spokesman’s admission, Spahn had rejected the criticism of plans to use the controversial masks. The magazine Der Spiegel had reported that at the beginning of last year the Ministry of Health bought masks for an estimated one billion euros that did not have the appropriate approval. Thereupon a dispute arose in the coalition, which ignited on two points.
On the one hand, there was the question of which test method should be used to examine the masks concerned for their suitability. The Department of Health does not consider some tests to be necessary that the Department of Labor is clearly pushing for. This includes an investigation from the field of occupational safety, in which the masks are exposed to an increased temperature of 70 degrees Celsius. The Ministry of Health justified the waiver of this test with the fact that “this constellation does not arise in the pandemic,” as a ministry spokeswoman said.
Spahn said on Monday morning that the masks from China, which are at issue, have been verifiably checked. Although they do not have EU certification, they are safe in terms of infection protection. Such protective masks were also sent to municipalities and districts last year. Integration and homeless facilities should also be supplied.
Dispute with the Ministry of Labor
The second dispute within the coalition revolves around this point. Spahn wanted to have the relevant facilities supplied with the controversial masks. The Federal Ministry of Labor was reluctant to do this. From the point of view of the Ministry of Health, these masks, “which guarantee protection against infection,” could have been delivered there, said Spahn on Monday. However, regular FFP2 masks were then sent to the institutions.
The SPD continues to demand Spahn’s resignation as health minister. The minister had “clearly tried in the past year to distribute masks that have not passed all the necessary tests to people who cannot defend themselves against these bad masks, people with disabilities, people in shelters for the homeless and others,” said SPD- Boss Saskia Esken on Monday in Berlin: “Anyone who divides people in this society into two classes, those who are entitled to correct masks and those who are also fobbed off with masks that are not entirely 100 percent effective, has an image of man that does not fit into this government. “
FDP General Secretary Volker Wissing called for clarity on Monday as to whether the masks in question offer the necessary protection against infection or not. “If it turns out that masks should be distributed that are of unsuitable quality, then of course that would have massive consequences for the Federal Minister of Health,” said Wissing in Berlin.