Until recently, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) was the great hope for Chancellor in his party. In 2018 and 2020, the 40-year-old was heavily involved in the election of the CDU chairman; as a minister, he has been the most important crisis manager in the country for a year.
And yet: Spahn had to give up a lot of feathers in the last few weeks. At first too little vaccine, now too much, because too few people in the current priority groups want the AstraZeneca funding. The vaccination goes too slowly, loosening is not in sight. The subject of vaccination alone would have been enough for the hour on Wednesday in the Bundestag, when the members of all parliamentary groups could ask questions to the minister. A good opportunity for the opposition to further corner the damaged hopefuls.
But in the end, even the opposition politicians did not take Spahn too hard in the government survey. It was about many detailed questions: The politician announced that significantly more rapid test options are already available and that the number of self-tests will also increase rapidly now that products from three manufacturers have already been approved on the German market. “The quick tests by trained staff can provide security in everyday life, especially when traveling and in care,” said Spahn. Whereas the self-tests are more suitable for specific situations and occasions, “when it comes to going to a concert or family”.
Vaccinations in general practitioners’ practices should only come when three to five million vaccine doses are available per week, Spahn said. Criticism of the lack of loosening, Spahn countered that day care centers, schools and hairdressers could already open in ten countries. Given the pandemic, that’s enough for now. And he does not want to deviate from the narrowly defined guide values for incidences.
Again and again Spahn pushed responsibility to the federal states. These are responsible for the faster vaccinations – not him. That is federalism.
Failures in the first year of the pandemic
If you look at the entire last Corona year, the Minister of Health definitely has responsibility for many grievances. Despite various warnings of inadequate preparation for pandemics, medical practices and hospitals complained of missing masks, gloves and other protective equipment. In a hotly contested world market, Germany had to compete for equipment, but for weeks there was not enough material. The situation with ventilators developed in a similar way – the situation for these products has now calmed down.
But with another project, Spahn could not keep what he had promised. He said that nurses who did a lot in Corona times should receive a one-time bonus of up to 1500 euros. But, of all people, many clinic employees initially got nothing.
In mid-January, Spahn had to admit mistakes in the vaccination campaign. His promise to make “every German a vaccination offer in summer” became the end of summer.
Spahn’s announcement that rapid tests will be introduced for everyone from March 1 was recently even cashed in by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) after the federal states also ran storm against the plans due to insufficient lead time. Now the decision on the rapid tests has been postponed by one week to March 8th. Many country representatives criticize the fact that Spahn’s ministry is increasingly active in action. There is no trace of a concrete plan for the next few months.
However, all of these issues were only touched upon on Wednesday. Spahn reacted calmly to the questions, sometimes even humorously and was able to score points with his calm manner.