At the end of a turbulent week, scientists outdo each other with grim prognoses about the location of the infection. The Berlin TU professor and modeler Kai Nagel calculated a 7-day incidence of up to 2000 in May. That would be 230,000 new infections per day, about 17 times more than at the moment. The prognosis of the Charité’s chief virologist, Christian Drosten, is lower, with 100,000 new infections per day. But each of these values would be higher than anything that Germany has seen so far in this pandemic, which is not exactly poor at the peak of infection.
And the politicians? Do astonishingly little. After their meeting marathon, the federal and state governments reminded of the need to comply with the long-established emergency brake, according to which the recently decided openings must be withdrawn on three consecutive days if the incidence is more than 100. In addition, new possible measures with this incidence are the obligation to wear masks by passengers in the car, the obligation to perform rapid tests and exit and contact restrictions.
But some country leaders have already announced that they will not adhere to it. “I believe that it is not a viable option to turn back everything that we have fought for in the last few days and weeks in terms of opportunities and freedoms,” said Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller (SPD). The Senate should decide this Saturday. North Rhine-Westphalia is also fighting back and is currently only planning mini emergency brakes for regions that are particularly hard hit by corona.
The discrepancy between what would be necessary and what is being done was summed up by Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) on Friday more clearly than was probably his intention. He announced that the new mandatory test for vacationers before their return flight to Germany would apply from midnight on March 30th. And then he said: “I have no illusions. These immigration regulations alone are not the game changer for Easter. The situation is too serious and the number of infections too strong for that.” If this continues unchecked, the health system could reach its limits in April.
Is it a new strategy? Just not looking and at the same time hoping that things won’t turn out so bad? That the curves won’t keep growing if you don’t stare at them all the time? Staring at curves – that has become a negative synonym for science-driven politics. Now politics is obviously trying to do it without science.
The only problem is: So far, things have always turned out just as serious scientists have predicted. Or even worse. “It just happened a little faster and a little earlier than expected,” said Michael Meyer-Hermann, head of department at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research this week in the “Daily Topics”.
In the meantime, Germany is on the hated incidence curve at the same level as on November 2nd – with a similar slope. And just like then, the number of occupied intensive care beds is growing again – only that it has now started at a significantly higher level, with 3,000 instead of 2,000 occupied beds. Intensive care physicians fear that they will soon no longer be able to provide enough beds. “I hope that we will soon find ourselves in a sensible channel to prevent that,” says Clemens Wendtner, Covid specialist at the Munich Clinic Schwabing.
But instead of deeds, hope now seems to determine the Corona policy. Maybe the vaccinations will be enough after all, maybe the scientists have miscalculated the greater danger posed by the mutants. Spahn emphasized on Friday that in April alone more vaccine doses are expected than were vaccinated in the entire first quarter. But even such prospects are currently provided with a but when nothing is going well: According to Spahn, all international examples show that the higher the incidence, “the less the vaccination helps to reduce the numbers.” From the point of view of the President of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, “a tough measure of contact reduction” remains the only way to break the third wave. “If no countermeasures are taken, the consequences will be serious,” said Wieler.
In addition to the appeals to the citizens – meetings at Easter only outdoors or indoors with a mask, no travel, few contacts – Spahn also had three demands on the federal states. First, they should include all people belonging to the second priority group in the vaccination campaign. The group is big enough and the vaccination ordinance allows all over 70-year-olds to be vaccinated with leftover doses at the weekend. Second, stocks for the second vaccination must be reduced. And thirdly, that sounded like an incantation, the emergency brake had to be implemented “consistently”, which was finally decided “jointly and unanimously”.