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Quarantine of entire villages and cities also possible in Germany?
Many people in this country do not follow the rules to slow the spread of the novel corona virus. In doing so, they risk the lives of countless people who belong to the group of risk patients. The federal government is therefore considering installing a curfew, which will then apply nationwide. This is negotiated at the highest level at the weekend. But what do the laws say? Is that even possible? What powers does the federal government have? We answer the most important questions about this.
Quarantine of entire counties in Germany not possible?
For many people, it may seem inconceivable that the military and police in protective suits cordon off entire villages or cities to contain a virus pandemic. When the pictures from China were shown in the German media, many observers and experts said that such a situation in Germany was virtually impossible. In these historical times, however, it becomes clear that this is also possible in Germany.
Infection Protection Act with extensive powers
To combat dangerous epidemics, European countries - including Germany - have far-reaching powers to restrict the freedom of movement for citizens. In Germany, interventional powers are regulated in the Infection Protection Act (IfSG). It was only in 2001 that the IfSG was replaced by the old Federal Disease Law.
There is a notification requirement for the corona virus
Reporting requirements exist so that the state and the authorities can analyze the extent of an epidemic. Clinics and doctors are required to notify health officials if patients have been diagnosed with plague, cholera, measles, and other communicable infectious diseases. These regulations are laid down in § 6 and § 8. As in the case of the new-found corona virus, the regulations according to § 15 can be additionally fixed in a short time.
Extensive investigations allowed
If an infection with the corona virus is suspected, the authorities may carry out extensive investigations. This includes allowing officials to enter the home, inspect and copy documents, and take samples without a court order. These measures are laid down in Section 16 of the IfSG.
People who have become infected or are suspected of being infected may be summoned. Once there, various examinations such as blood sampling or imaging diagnostics can be carried out. According to § 25, those affected have to put up with it.
Restriction of public life
If there is a risk of spreading, the health department can restrict the life of the individual or even public life. This includes that public events are prohibited. Schools, public institutions and day care centers can be closed (§ 28). If it makes medical sense, health authorities may also require vaccination in accordance with Section 20. Since no vaccinations are available in the case of the coronavirus, this point is currently excluded. However, as soon as a vaccination has been tested and crystallized as useful, this point is also very likely.
Isolation of suspected cases and infected people
Infected, sick and even suspected cases can be isolated in full quarantine. This is to prevent further spread and the risk of infection for the social environment. In clinics, patients are treated in isolation from others. If the victims refuse, coercive means may be used. Personal objects and documents are taken from the patient. Telephone calls to the outside world are listened to and letters read. All of this is regulated by § 30. In a weakened form, a professional ban can also take place. For example, if the patient or suspected case is a teacher, he may be prohibited from practicing his profession for a period of time in accordance with Section 31.
Quarantine entire villages or cities
In the public debate, far-reaching and freedom-restricting measures are rather appeased. Gerd Landsberg, managing director of the German Association of Cities and Municipalities, said that there are no legal regulations in Germany that would allow entire districts or cities to be quarantined. In our opinion, however, this is not entirely correct. Although such measures are not expressly stipulated in the law, the legislator grants the health authorities "all necessary measures" in accordance with section 28. In addition, the state governments can issue appropriate bans to contain an epidemic by decree in accordance with sections 17 and 32.
Are fundamental rights undermined?
In fact, the basic rights of citizens still apply. However, the Basic Law clearly states that the “fundamental rights of the citizens of the Federal Republic of Germany can be restricted in order to“ combat the risk of epidemics ”. This includes issuing a quarantine. Citizens are then not allowed to leave the place that the authorities have prescribed.
Not without fundamental rights
In this country, however, citizens are not entirely without rights. For example, data that is collected may only be used for disease control. Diagnostics that are invasive can only be done with the patient's consent. The same applies if anesthesia is to be performed (sections 16 and 25). In addition, compulsory therapy is not permitted according to § 28!
Proportionality must be observed
The state, the states and the health authorities are encouraged to always carry out a proportionality check. Precautionary measures that entail a significant restriction of individual and economic freedoms must be carefully checked for their requirements. These massive measures can only be taken if leading medical doctors and virologists are clearly convinced of the need to quarantine entire villages or cities or the entire country in order to contain the virus. For this reason, experts call for a new assessment of the situation. Because the effects on the economy and social life are immense.
When the curfew comes
It is still unclear to what extent a curfew will be declared. It is possible that numerous exceptions remain. So it may be possible that walks alone, in pairs or as a family are still tolerated. Also purchases and important things to do, e.g. Visits to the doctor, purchase of medication or the way to work could exceptionally apply. The powers can also extend to the complete collapse of public life. However, it is likely that numerous exceptions will apply. The fact is that the police can punish violators for fines or even up to two years in prison.
Is the Bundeswehr also deployed?
The deployment of the Bundeswehr appears likely. However, the soldiers are only used to guard civil and critical infrastructures. Police tasks inside appear rather unlikely. So the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, Eberhard Zorn told “welt.de” that he cannot imagine controls on soldiers in cities when there is a curfew.
Those affected can have quarantine checked by a court
Those affected always have the right to appeal to the administrative court against such measures by the authorities. However, complaints have no suspensive effect. This means that a court cannot overrule a measure upon request. According to procedural law, an urgent request can be applied for the annulment of an illegal act. The court checks whether there is proportionality.
No constitutional concerns
Constitutional lawyers like the constitutional lawyer Ulrich Battis see no constitutional concerns with a national curfew. “It is completely normal for fundamental rights to be severely restricted. Curfews are also possible if they are based on a plausible concept, ”Battis told the world. However, the state must always carefully check the appropriateness and choose the mildest option. (sb)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.