The corona crisis is tough. After the number of new infections was successfully reduced in Germany in May and June, the numbers rose again significantly in July – most recently by more than 600 infections per day.
“The latest developments in the number of cases make me and everyone at the Robert Koch Institute very concerned,” said Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, on Wednesday. “We now have to prevent the virus from spreading again and from spreading uncontrollably.”
For this to succeed, however, politicians have to get a grip on some of the problems in Germany.
1. Corona tests for vacationers
A suspected reason behind the recent rise in corona infections in Germany is the return of holidaymakers from abroad. The federal government only reacted this week: Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) announced mandatory tests for returnees from high-risk areas.
However, the summer holidays have been going on in some federal states for weeks – German holidaymakers in Mallorca and Bulgaria have already noticed careless behavior. The number of new infections caused by returnees could therefore continue to increase in the coming weeks.
It is also questionable why only returnees from risk areas should be tested. Although the risk of infection is lower in countries with lower Covid infections, infection is not excluded.
2. The implementation of the mask requirement
Since it has been known that the corona virus spreads primarily through aerosols in the air, it has also been clear: masks are one of the most effective means of stopping the spread of the virus. Unlike in some other European countries, such as the Netherlands, the mask requirement in buildings, especially in retail, has been in force in Germany for weeks.
The problem: checking compliance with the mask requirement. Deutsche Bahn, for example, calls for compliance with the obligation, but violations by passengers are not punished. Also in the retail trade, the obligation to wear a mask is not always strictly observed: the furniture retailer Poco, for example, instructed its employees not to expel mask refusers from the store.
3. Contact tracking
In contrast to the beginning of the Corona crisis, the virus does not primarily spread from larger hotspots, such as the Austrian ski area of Ischgl. This time the spread is much more decentralized. Foci of infection can occur anywhere in Germany and thus quickly cause the virus to spread exponentially. Almost 60 people became infected this week at a funeral service in Baden-Württemberg; In the Berlin district of Neukölln, the responsible health department is looking for a possible corona case in a brewery for 40 possible other infected guests.
The last case in particular shows how problematic contact tracking after new corona outbreaks is in Germany. According to the Infection Protection Act, guests in restaurants and pubs must provide their contact details by hand in order to be notified in the event of a corona case and, if necessary, tested or asked to be quarantined. However, some guests had given incorrect or no information. You could now unwittingly spread the virus. And that’s just a well-known case in Germany.
For comparison: When new infections appeared in reopened nightclubs in South Korea’s capital in mid-May, the South Korean government only needed two weeks to locate and alert almost 45,000 potential contacts. However, she not only used the contact details of the nightclub guests, but also telephone metadata, GPS data and credit card information.
4. The Corona app
It only took weeks, even months, before the federal government, with the help of software company SAP and Telekom, launched a corona app for contact tracking of possible corona infections. Nevertheless, the app was quickly recognized as a success: More than 16 million people have downloaded the app so far.
However, only a few hundred infections were reported via the app. And only last week it became known that the app did not work properly on both Android and Apple smartphones, because neither operating system allowed it to run in the background if this was not set manually by users. In the meantime, SAP and the Robert Koch Institute recommend that users open the app once a day so that it updates. The uncertainty about the functioning of the app is thus complete.
Anyway: The use of tracing apps is controversial. In South Korea, Singapore and Australia, despite millions of downloads, they brought no benefit and little information about the spread of the virus. It is questionable whether this will be different with the German app.
5. The hotspots
Germany had 40,000 seasonal workers flown to Germany in April. They mainly work as harvest helpers or butchers for various large companies. However, they are often poorly protected against the corona virus during work and in their accommodation.
So there have been mass outbreaks in the meat industry over the past few weeks; about last month at the main location of the meat manufacturer Tönnies in Gütersloh. Only a few days ago there was another outbreak. The federal government reacted by initiating a ban on contracts for work in the industries concerned.
It always becomes problematic where people work or live together in a confined space. Conditions in asylum seekers’ accommodation were similar to those in the apartments of seasonal workers. During outbreaks, such facilities were often placed under mass quarantines.
6. The lockdowns
After nationwide restrictions and bans on contacts were announced in spring and early summer in agreement between the federal government and the federal states, politicians agreed after the containment of the infection process and the loosening of anti-corona measures to react to corona outbreaks at district level in the future .
If the number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants of a district exceeds 50 people, new restrictions should be imposed. When this scenario occurred in various counties in early June, local politics partially refused to introduce new contact restrictions, for example on the grounds that the Corona outbreaks were local to certain factories or seasonal workers’ accommodations.
If the infection rate in Germany continues to increase and regional restrictions or even new lockdowns become necessary, it will be shown how much willingness there is in the municipalities and the population. Such regulations may also have to be enforced against resistance.
7. The second phase of the economic crisis
It may sound paradoxical, but although Germany is in the greatest recession since the Federal Republic was founded, the country has so far cushioned the economic upheavals of the Corona crisis relatively well.
The unemployment rate rose to 6.2 percent in June, but numerous measures prevented the worst. Millions of jobs were saved through the millions of times applied for short-time work, as well as business assistance and loans worth several hundred billion euros. For now.
Because the true extent of the economic crisis triggered by Corona remains to be seen. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts a slump in growth in the German economy of more than eight percent for 2020. And even if the ifo business index has recovered slightly in recent weeks – managers and entrepreneurs are more optimistic about the coming months – economists fear a major one Bankruptcy wave for autumn.
If this does happen, there could still be mass layoffs in Germany – and politics would come under drastic pressure.