In a thesis paper, experts call for a U-turn. They criticize the fact that younger people are not allowed to move freely and warn of the long-term damage to social isolation.
Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) currently does not want to hold the debate about an end to the harsh measures in the corona crisis. The government is thinking “day and night” about when the restrictions unprecedented for the Federal Republic could gradually be lifted again. But now “health protection” is in the foreground to prevent overcrowded hospitals with dying Covid-19 patients.
In many countries around the world, governments have ordered social and economic life to come to a standstill. The command is: “Flattening the curve”. The curve of new infections is to be weakened in order to save time and not to overwhelm the health systems.
German politics has gathered behind this course in a broad consensus. According to surveys, a large majority of the population thinks the way is right, so many would like even tougher measures. However, several experts, including former members of the Federal Government’s Council of Experts on Health Care, are now expressing considerable doubts about the strategy.
The experts are concerned that far-reaching decisions will be made without an adequate scientific basis. The approach chosen by the federal government to massively restrict the life of the entire population could even turn out to be counterproductive for health protection. And there is a risk that the primacy of disease control will harm the democratic constitutional state and exacerbate social conflicts.
The authors include Cologne medical professor Matthias Schrappe, Hamburg State Secretary for Health Matthias Gruhl and Franz Knieps, head of the Association of Company Health Insurance Funds and former top official in the Ministry of Health under Ulla Schmidt (SPD). It is not the first political series, but the authors’ voices have weight in the German health care system.
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According to their own statements, they are not concerned with criticizing those responsible at the federal and state levels who had to make decisions based on incomplete information. Rather, the theses are intended as “constructive contributions that serve the purpose of supporting the decisions of the coming weeks”. After Easter, the federal and state governments want to decide whether life in Germany will gradually return to normal from April 20.
However, the thesis paper of the health experts (& gt; & gt; Download) suggests that the decisions should in no way have been so drastic. The government may have taken a one-sided perspective on the challenges of the corona crisis, or at least that’s what the authors fear.
The available data are only of limited significance, the paper says. The actual spread of the virus in society is not known, the statistics refer to a recent period and hide the high number of unreported asymptomatic infections.
The official figures from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) would be “influenced” to a large extent by how much the virus is tested for. It therefore makes no sense to “make political decisions dependent” on these indicators. Merkel had cited the number of days in which the new infections registered by the RKI double as the yardstick for a possible relaxation of the restrictions. The so-called doubling time increases the slower the virus spreads in society. It is currently around ten days in Germany; the Chancellor had mentioned up to 14 days as her goal.
The health experts are also convinced that due to a lack of information about the number of corona cases, the death rates could not yet be determined: “It is currently not known how many infected people the number of patients died can be related to.” It has not been clarified to what extent deaths are actually due to infection with SARS-CoV-2 and cannot be explained by other serious health problems.
According to the authors, the current approach to contain the virus with general measures also obscures the view of certain risk factors. The corona virus is not “an epidemic that affects all parts of the population equally, but an epidemic with relatively precisely identifiable risk groups”. It was “not expedient to rely on a single form of measures, namely the indiscriminate limitation of personal contacts”.
Even in the past, epidemics were only successfully combated when the measures were tailored to the risk groups, write the health experts. In the case of the corona virus, these are primarily old age and previous illnesses.
“Impression of a general disaster”
For the critics of the government’s Corona course, it is “incomprehensible why children and younger people cannot move freely, at least as long as they do not contact older people or those with predispositions”. In addition, long-term damage to the population due to the economic consequences of the shutdown or social isolation is not adequately considered.
The experts recommend that the prevention strategy should focus more on nursing homes and hospitals, which have become the central means of spreading the virus. In addition, the corona epidemic is characterized by “local herds” as in Heinsberg in North Rhine-Westphalia, in which consistent measures must be taken to prevent the spread of infections. The focus in the reporting on this herd, however, “gave the impression of a general disaster”.
The authors of the thesis paper also ask themselves what the tough measures mean for political order and society. “Democratic principles and civil rights must not be played off against health,” they warn with regard to the restrictions on fundamental rights.
The measures aimed at the entire population would make people with low income and the self-employed significantly stronger than people with greater financial scope. The thesis paper states: “The current general prevention strategy may have been the right remedy at first in a confusing situation, but it poses the risk of increasing social inequality and other conflicts.”
More: All developments regarding the corona virus in the news blog.