Can the Germans prepare for a step towards more normalcy? Experts disagree. A compromise could again be difficult.
Germany is longing for the corona rules to be relaxed. For a year now, life has been out of joint due to the pandemic, since November restaurants and, in further steps, schools, daycare centers and many shops have been closed. How much longer do people have to endure this?
The number of daily new corona infections reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) stagnates at a level that is still too high. Epidemiologist Markus Scholz from the University of Leipzig says: “In fact, we have been observing a weakening of the downward trend in the number of infections for a few days.” In his opinion, the more contagious corona mutations, especially the British B.1.1.7.-variant, could contribute to this.
It is quite possible that a third wave will build up despite existing lockdowns. “So there is hardly any leeway for easing,” says Scholz. “If so, you could do without the measures that have little influence on the infection rate, such as small shops and service providers or museums with sufficient safety margin and hygiene concept.”
The epidemiologist is critical of the school openings. Schools would play an essential role in the infection process. “Unfortunately, schools are currently being opened with more or less the same hygiene concepts as in spring. It is not taken into account that the incidences are significantly higher and the B.1.1.7. Variant is significantly more contagious,” explains Scholz.
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The re is also no test strategy to track possible spread in schools and to be able to react to it. “Due to the poor preparation of the school openings, I fear that this will not go well for long and that we will again observe serious outbreaks in schools, which will then also be carried into the families,” says the epidemiologist.
The chairman of the World Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, recently warned clearly against further easing: “Anyone who talks about easing in times of increasing R-values is acting absolutely irresponsibly.” It is too early for such steps. “With every loosening there will be a significant increase in the numbers,” said the medic in the newspapers of the Funke media group.
The R-value indicates how many people an infected person infects on average. It is currently 1.1 in Germany.
Sociologist: Insecurity is the biggest problem
The professor from the Free University of Berlin draws parallels to a famous study. For these, people were asked which scenario they would prefer: to receive an electric shock of 30 volts at an unspecified time or to receive an electric shock of 80 volts at a specific time.
The problem is the uncertainty. That is a bigger factor in importance than the damage itself.”
All restrictions in the corona pandemic are associated with personal and financial damage, but people are basically willing to accept them to contain the pandemic. But Gerhards says: “Politicians made big mistakes, did not act wisely, when appointments were repeatedly set that gave hope.” One simply cannot foresee how the incidence figures will develop and therefore make no promises.
The only option that now exists for politics is to communicate openly.
Gerhards understands the great frustration in the population and the longing for relaxation. “It would certainly be very good for the mood in the population if it were said frankly: We just don’t know.”
The Chancellor went on to say: “Opening steps with increased tests must be introduced wisely.” Read more about this here.
Lauterbach: “An opening perspective must come”
SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach has also spoken out in favor of an opening strategy. “An opening perspective must come,” he wrote on Twitter. Nevertheless, he also warned against loosening “into the beginning third wave” and thus giving the British virus mutation the chance to spread. “It would hit the 55-80 year olds badly, they have not yet been vaccinated,” said Lauterbach. Another problem is the lower effectiveness of the Astrazeneca vaccine against the South African virus variant. It is naive to believe that you can relax as soon as all over 80-year-olds have been vaccinated.
The se self-tests would mean that contacts would never be warned and the health department would be bypassed. Instead, Lauterbach suggests testing children at school with antigen tests twice a week. “But that would use up almost the entire capacity of the tests at the beginning,” he admits.
Spahn: Three-month plan not possible
Spahn had rejected demands for a time-binding plan to relax the corona restrictions and presented a new infection value of less than 10 as desirable. “Everyone wants a three- and six-month plan, but that’s just not possible. I think we shouldn’t make false promises,” said the CDU politician on Sunday evening in the ARD program “Report from Berlin”.
First of all, in view of the increasing spread of virus mutations, he wants to wait and see how the opening of more schools and daycare centers will affect this Monday. “It makes sense, together – that’s the conversation with the federal states – to define the stages from when the next step can be taken. But the truth is: an incidence of less than 10, which is in any case in most regions in Germany pretty far away, “said Spahn.
The federal and state governments recently decided to allow the relaxation of public life only when the incidence value remained stable below 35. Christian Dürr, vice-parliamentary group leader of the FDP, tells t-online: “Even if we don’t reach the incidence of 35 before the next federal-state round, there should be easing because we also have to take other factors into account – like that Utilization of intensive care beds and progress in vaccination. ” It is important, however, that the range of rapid tests is expanded with each relaxation and that risk groups are better protected. “Here Mr. Spahn has to step up,” he emphasizes.
The retail trade as well as the operators of restaurants and pubs are suffering extremely from the ongoing lockdown – and would like to see the easing as quickly as possible. Numerous company bosses, but also employees, are now angry with politics because of the lack of open perspective, and many have existential fears.
Economist: “It’s all about the substance”
Not without good reason, as the economist Hubertus Bardt from the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW) explains. “This is where the substance is,” Bardt tells t-online. “If the spring business fails with the Easter break, it would be a heavy blow for many of these companies.”
The industry, which was badly hit in the spring, has come through the winter lockdown comparatively well so far.” However, concerns also increased in the manufacturing industry, especially with a view to their imports and exports. “If borders are partially or completely closed, this endangers international supply chains and could quickly bring production in Germany to a complete standstill.”
Every additional week, Bardt calculates, the economy in Germany would lose 3.5 billion euros. If the industry were to be affected, the losses would be significantly higher. So a lot of money that could be saved would be eased more quickly.
Söder: Regional easing is possible
One week before the next Corona summit, interests diverge: In politics, some want an opening plan, others consider it impossible. Epidemiologists warn against easing, economic experts against immense lockdown damage. What now?
Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder indicated what a compromise could look like. In view of the falling number of infections in Bavaria, he also wants to talk about opening prospects. On Twitter, he wrote: “If the incidence rate is stable below 35, regional easing will be possible after the next Prime Minister’s Conference.
The school continues to be number 1 of all considerations. We also want to enable more contacts when the numbers are low.”
The re should be further adjustments in the next week: “Nursing services such as foot care are possible and garden centers and flower shops are also allowed to open.”
More than half of the counties and urban districts in Bavaria have meanwhile fallen below the incidence value of 50. According to the figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), 51 of the 96 districts and cities recorded fewer than 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within a week on Saturday. Of these, 27 are below the 35 mark.
Open where possible, based on current figures and on the basis of a clear plan – that could not bring relief to everyone in Germany equally. But at least one perspective.