Why does the lockdown work so little?

Düsseldorf Many shops are closed, schools and restaurants are closed, and there is no end in sight to the restrictions. Since December 16, 2020, Germany has been in what is known as a hard lockdown in order to contain the spread of the corona virus. Nevertheless, the number of new infections has only decreased slightly since the beginning of the year. Has the lockdown failed? And if so, why?

The answer to the questions is all the more urgent because mutations of the virus are likely to be on the rise in Germany. These can often infect people much more effectively.

This makes people’s precautionary measures against Corona even more important. Data from the University of Erfurt provide valuable information for this. Psychologist Cornelia Betsch and her team ask thousands of people every week about their behavior in times of Corona.

The new survey results for Christmas and New Year’s Eve show that Germans behave in a contradictory and inconsistent manner. The legal requirement was that each household was only allowed to meet up to four other people from the closest family and relatives, children were not counted.

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There was no shortage of good intentions. But were they implemented?

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Only 51 percent of all respondents stuck to their resolution not to hit a household or at most one – a full 21 percentage points less than previously stated. Every fifth respondent met with at least three other households.

Some of these meetings were not allowed under the applicable lockdown rules. The misconduct is also reflected in the mobility data of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), according to which movements from one place to another did not decrease as much as in the first lockdown in spring 2020.

According to the survey by the University of Erfurt, the respondents spent an average of five people in a closed room for more than 30 minutes. Accordingly, precautionary measures have been neglected, despite stricter regulations and the risk of infection with a fatal disease. A so-called super spreader, i.e. a very infectious person, is often enough at such gatherings to infect others with the coronavirus.

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But the question of reason does not only arise at Christmas. Be it at a conference at work, a party at home or while watching football together – with every contact you are faced with the question: “Am I wearing a mask? Do I stay longer in a non-ventilated room? “According to the findings of psychologists, the decision is always similar – and depends on those present.

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People instinctively trust their group or tribe, an early behavior, to ensure survival. In the corona pandemic, this is precisely what creates a threat. The corona rules are followed more strictly with strangers, while they are laid out loosely with family and friends.

This is no surprise for psychologist Betsch and her team. You have already observed the behavior in previous studies. The more connected you feel to someone, the less you are bothered by the person’s unsanitary behavior.

However, the coronavirus doesn’t really care about the number of acquaintances. Only precautionary measures such as wearing the mask help against the disease. Doctors call it adherence: Patients defy medical recommendations and regulations – and not just at Christmas or New Year’s Eve. It’s so easy to protect yourself.

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It is even better to provide fresh air – sometimes an unpleasant thing in winter, but it is necessary to lower the concentration of the dangerous aerosols in a superspreader.

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Conclusion: Even if the rules against the coronavirus are tightened by the state, they will not necessarily become more effective. As social beings, people sometimes behave irrationally.

More: How likely is an infection in the office? These graphics show it.

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