Pandemic management: expert council expresses sharp criticism

Mith her announcement that in extreme emergencies and to maintain the critical infrastructure, as an exception, symptom-free infected people would also be allowed to work, Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) caused a lot of confusion at the weekend. Because even Berlin is not threatened by a threat to the water and electricity supply, and even in the Charité the sick leave among doctors and nurses is at a level that does not seriously endanger patient care. Anyone who has tested positive cannot come to work in the clinic. According to its own statements, the Charité does not want to change anything about that.

Heike Schmoll

Political correspondent in Berlin, responsible for “Bildungswelten”.

Giffey’s statements for the worst-case scenario, which may never happen, are just one example of what the Expert Council sharply criticized in its fifth statement published on Sunday evening: errant communication. “A lack of consistency between available information, its assessment and the resulting recommendations contributes to the uncertainty of the population” and “undermines trust in government action,” it says. Diplomatically cloaked, the expert council accuses the federal government of acting chaotically, calls for alignment with available knowledge, laments the lack of data again and suggests that the central data, statistics and key figures be translated into a target group-oriented, understandable form.

He also recommends distributing the communicative content on several channels, including social networks. Contradictory statements should be avoided – the health authorities are specifically mentioned, which a week ago in Berlin caused shambles among parents and schools by specifying different test strategies than those of the health administration that were still valid at the time. In a memorable Senate press conference, the responsible senators for health and schools had to point out that the test strategy could not have been changed so quickly. And apparently nobody could or wanted to prevent the medical officers from going it alone.

“Constitutionally Unacceptable”

The rapid change and insufficiently justified reversal of previous procedures are increasingly eroding the trust of the population. The Expert Council therefore comes to the unflattering conclusion that there is no institution in Germany that successfully practices “risk and health communication” that follows the principles mentioned. The scientists are realistic enough to know that uniform opinions are excluded in a pluralistic society, but “in the context of this diversity, there must be technically sound and evidence-based health communication that is developed and implemented by multidisciplinary expertise”. For this purpose, not only the available medical information has to be brought together, but also relevant studies have to be evaluated and behavior-relevant aspects such as “acceptance of measures”, willingness to be vaccinated, and trust have to be regularly observed and evaluated.

The fact that the decision on the validity of the convalescent status was left to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in the future has not only presented some convalescents with a fait accompli. Because since January 14th, infected people have only been considered recovered three instead of six months after the illness. The Bundestag and Bundesrat have delegated the decision to the RKI. However, this does not apply to MPs, a special rule extends their convalescent status to six months, which has already been criticized by legal scholars and politicians in clear terms.

The whole procedure appears dubious to the scientific service of the Bundestag. Because the duration of the recovered status directly affects and restricts the fundamental rights of those affected, the scientific service sees a need for parliamentary legislators. “Due to the high relevance of fundamental rights, leaving the regulation of this question to the executive appears critical,” says the report, which is available to the FAZ. The Berlin constitutional lawyer Christoph Möllers, for example, declared it “constitutionally unacceptable” to leave the solution to this question at the discretion of the legislator. In general, questions of the exercise of fundamental rights should not be regulated by means of the ordinance without the legislature specifying the essential criteria for this. The Regensburg legal scholar Thorsten Kingreen takes a similar view and says: “Freedom rights for people who are expected to be immunized cannot be placed at executive discretion for constitutional reasons. They seem.”

The basis for regulating proof of immunity is Section 28 c of the Infection Protection Act, which stipulates that the federal government can make exceptions “for people who can be assumed to be immunized against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus or who have a negative result from a test”. of bans in the fight against a pandemic are possible. The regulation of the proof of immunity does not itself interfere with fundamental rights, but forms the basis for the question of whether the fundamental rights of those affected may be restricted or whether an exception can apply. The scientific service doubts that the currently valid exceptional regulation satisfies constitutional standards, as well as the practice of only publishing it on the website, because the content can be changed much faster than a legislative procedure.

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