Dispute over pandemic targets: the zero is there

NZero incidence, no more new corona infections – the population is not going along, says the Rhineland-Palatinate Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD), “zero is not a good idea”. The idea was propagated by scientists in the most recent round of the Chancellor’s meeting with the Prime Ministers, and by no means only virologists, but also top-class economists and social researchers. “No Covid” or “Zero Covid” was politically dead even before it was seriously examined. Unrealistic, politically not feasible, the Prime Minister’s Conference was quickly finished with it. “Driving on sight”, the favorite long-term strategy of CDU boss Armin Laschet, is lived reality, that’s true. Only nobody is happy with the result. Psychologists call this sad state of helplessness. Large parts of the population now perceive it as hopelessness. They are exhausted and disillusioned. Annoyed. The numbers are falling, but the measures should be stricter – because the more contagious mutants knock on the door. Because the numbers of the daily deaths hurt again and again. Because the German pandemic balance is getting gloomy.

How, of all things, is the vision of reducing the number of cases to zero as quickly as possible “taking away people’s confidence”, as Dreyer thinks? You don’t have to ask the people in Melbourne, New Zealand, South Korea or Vietnam, where the goal of minimizing the maximum number of cases is consistently implemented for economic reasons. The zero vision for health and life protection has long been established here as well. Dreyer and Laschet’s parties have included them in the coalition agreement: in the medium term, the goal should be zero traffic fatalities. It’s not exactly called that, but it’s “Vision Zero”. Sweden gave this idea legal status years ago, reducing the number of road deaths by 90 percent. Realistic? Walter Eichendorf, socio-political scientist and road safety expert, helped set the course: Our Basic Law is clear, “Life and physical integrity are not negotiable. Even if it can never be fully achieved: Everyone has the right to live and everything necessary must be done for that. “

In occupational safety, Vision Zero was implemented by the American gunpowder manufacturer du Pont over two hundred years ago. Every single accident can be avoided and is still the basic idea today. Everyone has a responsibility. Since 2019, Vision Zero has also been the name of an association of top cancer doctors from all over the country. Their philosophy and empirical experience are the same as that of Zero Covid: A large number of deaths are preventable, with cancer there are 600 a day in Germany. Their mission is not to chat, but to act: first prevent. Prevention has never been the strength of politics, especially not of health politics. To a certain extent, putting prevention aside was the lived reality, yes the only long-term strategy until the outbreak of the pandemic. The zero vision is therefore not a number, but a challenge and a requirement: every stone must be turned over. Because that is still not a reality, not with the screening, not with the measures, Zero Covid lives on as an attitude on the net, as #YesToNoCovid.


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