On March 28, 2020, the “Federal Act for the Protection of the Population against an Epidemic of National Significance” (Bevölkerungsschutzgesetz) went into effect.  The law forms part of an emergency legislative package introduced by the German government in response to COVID-19.

The law amends the Social Code V (SGB V) by introducing a new provision (sec. 287a) that aims to overcome fragmentation across the German regulatory landscape for scientific research in the health sector generally.  In particular, research projects in the health sector are often hampered by the 16 federal states’ hospital acts and data protection acts that place various restrictions on researchers.

Under the new law, scientific research projects in the health sector conducted in two or more federal states will only be subject to Section 27 of Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) if public or private bodies from two or more federal states or federal agencies participate in the project.  Moreover, the data controllers concerned must appoint a “principal controller”, and the Supervisory Authority responsible for the principal controller’s main establishment will have exclusive competence to oversee the project.  According to the official rationale of the draft law, this new rule is based on the opening clauses in Art. 9(2)(i) and (j) GDPR.