How many corona dead do we want to afford?

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How many corona dead do we want to afford?





© Reuters / Inquam Photos / V. Simonescu
Provided by Deutsche Welle


Commentary by Henrik BOhme

You think you can’t believe your eyes and ears. After a two-week standstill, the first start preparing bills: deaths versus economic growth. Henrik BOhme says that shouldn’t be the case.

It is a question to which there is no answer. Anyway, I don’t have any. Some think they know the answer. The core, which is currently the subject of a ghostly debate: what is more worth to us? Protecting everyone’s health or protecting against a devastating economic crisis?

I have written about the economic impact of crises of all kinds for decades. After the attacks of September 11th, after the crash of Lehman Brothers, I even saw the complete collapse of a system live, in 1989 in the GDR. And now this virus. Invisible. Nondescript. Unknown. Yet. This unknown is what makes it so dangerous. What makes us so scared. What makes us endure contact blocks and exit bans. The curtailment of freedom of movement, the shutdown of economic and public life. Images of an end-time apocalypse. The rush hour traffic reports have nothing to report.

Big sums

We learn to juggle with even bigger numbers than in the times of the world financial crisis. The US aid package is worth two trillion dollars, the ECB is easing 750 billion euros, the federal government 600 billion euros. Such packages are being put up all over the world. And of course many ask themselves the question: Who should actually pay for everything?

In the end, is it the same as after the financial crisis, in the wake of which the states are up to their necks in debt? So savings were made – especially in the social systems, healthcare, education and investments. There are serious studies by British doctors that the financial crisis between 2008 and 2010 resulted in more than 500,000 additional deaths from cancer alone because they did not receive the necessary medical treatment due to austerity measures or unemployment (and the insurance cover lost as a result).

Very tough words

So now it’s time to weigh things up again. How many dead do we want and can we afford? The question can also be asked differently: What is a human life worth to us? May we open such bills, as Alexander Dibelius (private equity manager, ex Goldman Sachs boss in Germany) does, who asks: Is it true that ten percent of the population particularly threatened by Corona is spared, but that The rest, including the entire economy, are extremely hampered with the possible consequence that the basis of our prosperity will be eroded in the long term?

Can you get any colder? Even more calculating? After all, the man is a trained medical doctor. What about Hippocrates’ oath? Are there still more vivid pictures than those that reach us from Italy? Doctors who are faced with the inhumane decision of whom they can treat – and who they have to let die. Collapsing health systems – to prevent this, that’s what the current one is all about Shut down. Because if Italian conditions prevail in the hospitals, then many other patients who are admitted, for example, with an acute heart attack or stroke must die. For Dr. Dibelius may have collateral damage. Also the more than a million deaths in the US, as calculated by the Imperial College in London? And a question for the trained physician Dibelius: Did you read about the 20-year-old medical students who had to pack the dead in body bags and transport them away in Muhlhausen, France?


Henrik Böhme, DW business editor


© Provided by Deutsche Welle
Henrik BOhme, DW business editor

A lot of people affected

Of course, the economic standstill is a huge problem. For the pub around the corner, which could just stay afloat anyway. For the freelance director who breaks off all performances for half a year. For event agencies, caterers. The list is endless. Or the really big ones: Lufthansa, which has almost the entire fleet on the ground because the business model of flying just doesn’t work. Volkswagen has stopped its belts and actually wanted to celebrate the launch of the new electric car in the summer. Nothing comes of it. But that also makes the dimension of the crisis clear. Of course, the factories at VW and many others were closed because the health of employees takes priority. On the other hand, production would only take place on a heap anyway, because currently nobody wants to buy cars.

This is how the virus eats into our systems, into our societies. Cuts our freedoms. Gives us a loss of control. Shakes our belief that we have a solution to every problem. Bring us the big recession. Yes. And yet it must not be that we sort now. Lock the old ones away (by the way, young people also die from the virus) so that the economy grows again. Of course, the scientists are aware of their responsibility for the damage, social and economic, caused by the current measures. Therefore it will be readjusted.

No, we have to get through the manageable pause now. Guard the plant of solidarity that arose during the crisis. In the midst of a deeply selfish society. This is the real antidote to Corona.

We can manage the economy again. I’m sure of that.

Author: Henrik BOhme

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