“Lockdown light did not work”

Celebrating Christmas and New Years Eve for ten? That can still change, warns Söder with “Anne Will”. Pandemic researcher Priesemann says: The lockdown light has failed and requires tough decisions.

Most Germans expect ten people to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But are easing the contact restrictions to the festival in the pandemic the right way? Is there even a clear plan of what exactly the federal and state governments want to achieve? Is Asia doing better? Anne Will discussed this with her guests on Sunday evening. An overview.

The guests

  • Markus Söder, CSU party leader and Prime Minister of Bavaria
  • Michael Müller (SPD), Governing Mayor of Berlin
  • Christian Lindner, FDP party leader and parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag
  • Viola Priesemann, physicist from the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization
  • Vanessa Vu, editor of “Zeit Online”

Corona rules: pros and cons

Only one thing is certain at the moment: After the Corona summit is before the Corona summit. Actually, according to the latest agreement between the federal and state governments, the timetable seemed to be clear at least until the New Year. The contact restrictions will be relaxed for Christmas. Instead of five people, a maximum of ten relatives and close friends are allowed to come together for the festival and New Year’s Eve in most federal states, excluding children up to 14 years. But when Anne Will asked her guest Markus Söder whether he could promise the Bavarians for Christmas for ten, the CSU boss initially replied: “No one can make promises in these times of pandemic.”

Although Söder later confirmed with a view to Christmas: “The ten will stay.” However, he did not want to rule out a tightening of the restrictions at the turn of the year if “the mildest lockdown in Europe” should not continue to depress the number of new infections as desired. “We will know in two weeks at the latest whether there is an impact or not and then we have to consider whether we have to re-sharpen,” said the Prime Minister, who was connected from Bavaria.

The fact that Germany has so far not been more successful in the fight against Corona is primarily due to a basic problem for Söder: “We fight too much.” For months, the threat posed by the virus has been downplayed and every protective measure – be it masks or contact restrictions – has been broken down to the smallest detail. “Every time there is an endless debate,” complained the CSU boss. Critical questions were part of the democracy. But: “This denial of the basic idea is something that does not strengthen us overall.” It is clear what the fight against Covid-19 is about: “The mother of all numbers is the number of infections.” Pushing them is the key.

But what is the exact value? Pandemic researcher Viola Priesemann asked herself. “I lack clear communication: what is the goal?” She criticized. For epidemiologists, the effective strategy against the pandemic is clear: “We know how to do it.” The number of new infections every day must be reduced from around 20,000 cases to 2,000 to 5,000, and the reproduction value must drop from 1 to 0.75, for example. Then the capacities in health authorities and test laboratories would be sufficient to trace infection chains and to keep the important number of unreported cases low, explained the researcher from the Max Planck Institute: “Then we will really be through in two, three, a maximum of four weeks.”

Corona: is Asia doing better?

While restaurants and museums in Germany had to close again, public life in many East Asian countries is now almost completely normal, with comparatively extremely low case numbers. So can Germany learn from Asian countries? Will asked the Zeit Online journalist Vanessa Vu. Yes, said the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and specifically mentioned: clear goals, clear rules, strict quarantine requirements. Instead, Germany stumbles from one federal-state summit to the next, which permanently wears down citizens. With debates about free FFP2 masks, for example, they are distracted from the actual goal: To reduce the number of cases as close as possible to zero in order to no longer just drive on sight and give the economy predictability again.

“We are always bound by the principle of proportionality,” said FDP leader Christian Lindner when restricting freedoms for health protection. However, he accused the government of wasting time, especially in protecting particularly vulnerable people. Among other things, Lindner suggested taxi vouchers for these risk groups in order to save them journeys on public transport: “The money is spent right there.”

“Maybe we weren’t that well prepared,” admitted Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller with a view to Asia. However, experience in other European countries has shown that a hard lockdown is not the panacea. “We have come a long way on a level-headed path,” said the SPD politician. However, his state does not want to relax the contact restrictions at Christmas. “We have to protect people,” said Müller.

Söder said he would be happy if the corona warning app worked as it should. You could help a lot more, but that fails because of the “very high hurdle of data protection”.

The quote of the evening

For Priesemann, the time has really come to act. “Lockdown light was worth a try. It would have been great if it had worked. It didn’t work,” said the physicist. With an enormous but short show of strength, Germany could overcome the pandemic before the use of vaccines. “I want us to use everything we have to reduce the number of cases,” said the expert and called on politicians to set a target of 2,000 to 5,000 new infections per day: “It is feasible.” Then the freedoms that people enjoy in other parts of the world will quickly be there again in this country. “That is a question of weighing up interests: Do we really want to have a lockdown light for the next four months?” Asked Priesemann.

The fact check

After the decided easing for Christmas and New Year’s Eve, there was criticism from health experts. “As a virologist, I find that incomprehensible,” said Melanie Brinkmann from the Helmholtz Institute for Infection Research on Deutschlandfunk. “I don’t think we’ve pushed the numbers down enough by then to be relaxed and I don’t think it’s a good idea to relax.”

Scientists from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Frankfurt Institute for Advanced Studies have also seen a potential “Christmas effect” in model calculations and warned of a third corona wave. Their conclusion: “The simulations show that extending or strengthening the currently effective contact restrictions (by maintaining current measures, introducing alternative regulations or also through individual restrictions) would lead to a decrease in the number of new infections in the medium term. If the contact rates remained well below that Late summer level, a third wave could be suppressed. “


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