Angela Merkel’s speech interrupted at Bundestag
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The German Chancellor was barracked by members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party after urging lawmakers on Friday to approve new powers allowing her to force coronavirus lockdowns and curfews on areas with high infection rates, saying a majority of Germans were in favour of stricter measures. She said: “I am very well aware that with this bill hard restrictions will be agreed on for all districts where the incidence rate is above 100, contact restrictions, closing shops, and arts and sports facilities, evening curfews.
I do take these objections seriously
“There is an intense discussion especially about the curfew. In regard to the associated restriction of freedom, as well as about whether it even works.
“I do take these objections seriously.
“And of course, I also engage with you on this and I also want to do this here as well.
“For one, curfews are not a new invention but are in the infection protection law that is currently in place.”
At that point, the jeers and catcalls became so loud Mrs Merkel was forced to break off from her speech.
Mr Schaeuble, whose job is roughly analogous to that of the Speaker of the House of Commons, then jumped in, saying: “Could I just, Mrs Chancellor, could I just make a general statement?
“I ask you, dear colleagues, whatever our personal opinions may be, don’t you think, in face of the emergency situation and the worries of our citizens, that we should take them into account in the way we are debating this here? I’d like to politely ask you to do this.”
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His intervention prompted applause among socially distanced MPs in the Bundestag.
Mrs Merkel’s government wants parliament to change the Infection Protection Act to enable federal authorities to enforce restrictions even if regional leaders resist them, hoping to alleviate pressure on intensive care units.
The imposition of curfews and granting the federal government powers to force them on Germany’s 16 states has also drawn criticism from within Merkel’s conservative bloc, which opinion polls suggest will suffer their worst ever result in a September national election.
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Unlike Britain and France, Germany has been reluctant to impose drastic limits on movement in a country which is fiercely protective of democratic freedoms as a result of its history of totalitarian rule under the Nazi and Communists.
Lockdown opponents have held demonstrations across the country, but especially in the former east, where the AfD enjoys more support.
The party claims restrictions have failed to halt the pandemic and actually cause more damage to both the economy and people’s mental health.
Mrs Merkel acknowledged in her speech that the new powers were no bullet-proof solution to the pandemic, which she said could only be defeated with vaccinations.
AfD parliamentary leader Alice Weidel said the new measures were an unprecedented attack on basic democratic freedoms.
She said: “The proposed amendments of the Infection Protection Act are an alarming document of an authoritarian state.
“This relapse into the authoritarian demon is coming from the chancellery and you, Madame Chancellor.”
Merkel gazed at her smartphone during most of Mrs Weidel’s speech.
Speaking to Express.co.uk last week, German former MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, who quit the AfD after it shifted sharply to the right in 2015 after it shifted sharply to the right, issued his own warning about the proposed law change.
He said: “No one disputes the need for lock-downs, but we don’t need one which covers the entire country when the rate of infections is vastly different within the country.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)
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