How much “Zero Covid” is in Merkel’s strategy?


On Tuesday, the federal and state governments will again discuss the corona policy. Do the considerations of well-known researchers play a role in bringing the corona numbers to zero, is it possible?

You advocate tough lockdown measures, significantly more tests and clear targets. “Zero Covid” is the name of the strategy that well-known scientists presented to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) on Monday. With the concept, the researchers believe they can prevent new infections and fatalities and open up perspectives for a return to normalcy. How much of this approach can be found in the federal and state strategy?

In a guest post for t-online some of the authors had explained the main features of the concept. In it they propose for a first phase strict measures to reduce the number of new infections to almost zero – hence “Zero Covid”. Subsequently, the number of infections is to be consolidated through targeted interventions at this level and, finally, restrictions are to be lifted.

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Among other things, the researchers advocate severe restrictions in everyday life, without naming more specific measures. You say that other countries have successfully demonstrated that high infection rates can also be drastically reduced within a shorter period of time.  The  federal government was apparently also ready to go beyond the currently applicable regulations. So was about one in the past week nationwide uniform regulation for a night curfew and one more Narrowing of the contact options the speech.

© The re was little of either in the draft resolution for the Corona summit on Tuesday. ©

 The re is even a dispute about exit restrictions in countries and counties with a persistently high 7-day incidence. With regard to the contact restrictions, the existing rule remains that gatherings are permitted “with members of the own household” and with a maximum of one other person who does not live in the household. ” To only allow meetings with a fixed person – apparently discarded.


 The  “Zero Covid” authors keep beating Quarantine shelters for infected people to prevent infection in their own household. In Israel, for example, something similar has been practiced for months. ©

 The re, travelers from particularly affected countries have to go to hotels guarded by the army and serve their quarantine time there.

Such institutions are not mentioned in the summit proposal. Nevertheless there are in individual countries Plans to get tougher on those who repeatedly break quarantine. You could soon be forcibly committed to central collection points, clinics or juvenile institutions.

Facility to isolate those who refuse to quarantine (source: dpa / Axel Heimken)Facility to isolate those who refuse to quarantine (source: Axel Heimken / dpa)

A sensitive point is what scientists are asking for stricter border controls. In the past few months politicians had repeatedly affirmed that they wanted to avoid a situation like the one in spring 2020; At that time, Germany and several neighboring countries had temporarily introduced border controls. ©

 The  authors of “Zero Covid” think that this is exactly what is appropriate because border controls reduce people’s mobility, which has a positive effect on the infection rate.

Most recently, the federal government no longer ruled out national border controls because of the pandemic. All options were on the table, said a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior on Monday. Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) had previously called for a uniform European corona strategy. “If this does not continue, border controls would make sense.” However, they no longer play a role in the plans of the federal and state governments.


 The  researchers also demand “as comprehensive and comprehensive as possible” Homeoffice to set, as it says in the guest post. In their appeal on the Internet, they go even further, suggesting the closure of factories and offices and the suspension of work. Several federal states had reportedly pushed for home office to be mandatory in the run-up to the Corona summit. According to the draft resolution, the federal and state governments continue to forego coercion. Nonetheless, the government has announced a regulation that “employers must” allow employees to work from home wherever possible.

Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) said on Monday that he wanted to make the call for more home offices “more binding”. His party colleague, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz, had previously demanded that appeals to companies should no longer be left alone. “That must be used more intensively if it is operationally possible,” he told “Bild”.

At the center of “Zero Covid” is the demand Perspectives for a way out of the pandemic to develop. ©

 The  researchers suggest starting a “positive competition” between the regions for the lowest possible number of cases, and that those who have achieved certain brands reward their citizens with relaxation. In contrast to vague plans with no foreseeable end, this creates trust and motivates citizens, the authors believe.

Such an exit strategy does not appear in the deliberations of the federal and state governments. She is betting that the turning point will come with the vaccination campaign. ©

 The  opposition in the Bundestag has repeatedly criticized this. FDP leader Christian Lindner, for example, backed the tightening of the lockdown in December, but complained at the same time: “©

 The  emergency brake does not replace a sustainable strategy.” Without such a lockdown there is a risk that you will hangle from one lockdown to the next, says Lindner. Left parliamentary group leader Dietmar Bartsch also called for a long-term strategy to combat pandemics last week.

“Far from reality” and “demotivating”

However, numerous colleagues of those who signed the appeal doubt that “Zero Covid” could point the way out of the crisis. On ZDF, the epidemiologist Klaus Stöhr called the goal of zero infections through almost zero contact “unrealistic” and in the end “demotivating”. His colleague from Leipzig, Prof. Markus Scholz, said that it is not feasible that there really are no more contacts. Certain basic supplies simply have to be available. Eradicating the virus within two weeks has not yet worked anywhere – not even in China, where the toughest restrictions were in place at the beginning of 2020.


 The  Corona advisors of the new CDU boss and NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet presented a kind of counter-draft to “Zero Covid” on Tuesday and at the same time clearly criticized the crisis management so far. In their “cornerstones for a long-term strategy”, experts like the virologist Hendrik Streeck, the economist Michael Hüther and the medical ethicist Christiane Woopen no longer just “react to current developments according to the situation”. On the one hand, this is objectively not expedient. On the other hand, politics run the risk of “no longer reaching and convincing the population as a whole”.


 The  researchers are calling for the pandemic to be viewed from the end. Decisions should be based on an understanding of “future normality”, how society but also the individual can live with – and not without – the virus. Because even vaccines would probably not make SARS-CoV-2 disappear completely, say the experts. Based on this consideration, the continuation of the current lockdown, the process of successive opening and the prevention of a third lockdown should be discussed.

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