German would-be coalition backs ending COVID state of emergency

FILE PHOTO: Stickers to remind passengers to follow the safety rules are seen as the International airport presents additional COVID-19 safety measures, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Frankfurt, Germany, May 12, 2020. REUTERS/Ralph Orlowski/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's pandemic-related state of emergency looks set to expire next month after the three political parties in talks to form the next government said on Wednesday they did not support extending it.

The state of emergency that enabled the federal and state government to impose measures like lockdowns and curfews without a parliamentary vote is set to lapse on Nov. 25 unless parliament agrees to extend it.

The Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats, the three parties which hope to agree on a coalition government by early December after a national election last month, hold a parliamentary majority.

They and other proponents of ending the state of emergency, including outgoing conservative Health Minister Jens Spahn, argue Germany can now cope with the pandemic much better as it has fully vaccinated around 66% of its population.

Cases may be rising - the rate of weekly confirmed coronavirus cases has nearly doubled in the last month to 1,262 per million inhabitants, according to Our World in Data - but hospitalisations remain far below the peak of the pandemic.

"There will be no more school closures, lockdowns and curfews with us," SPD health expert Dirk Wiese told a news conference.

Wiese and leaders from the Greens and FDP said they recommended simply amending Germany’s Infection Protection Act to allow states to impose certain protective measures like mask wearing and contact tracing as needed.

State leaders have said they fear a patchwork of different regulations in each region could make them harder to enforce.

The newly convened Bundestag lower house of parliament should consult on the necessary law changes on Nov. 10 or 11, said Greens parliamentary co-chief Katrin Goering-Eckardt.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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