In Europe, Germany is one of the countries with the lowest number of new corona infections. Others have long since relaxed more. Are German politicians acting too hesitantly? Some examples from abroad speak against it.
In the course of the corona pandemic, Germany was initially pleased that it was later compared to its European neighbors. The first wave of infections hit Italy, France and Great Britain earlier than the Federal Republic. That gave politicians important time to prepare.
Erfurt: In Germany, too, more and more people are calling for an end to the lockdown. (Source: dpa)
Germany is still “running late” in 2021, but that is no longer an advantage. The vaccination campaign got off to a slow start, a nationwide rapid test strategy has not yet been feasible and the German population is largely in lockdown.
Other countries massively relaxed their corona measures weeks ago. Their plan: After the risk groups have been vaccinated, they let the coronavirus infect the population more and more. But does it work in a controlled manner in view of the danger posed by the British mutation B.1.1.7, which is more contagious and deadly – and is now the dominant variant in Europe?
Before the next federal-state summit on March 22nd – and possible easing over Easter – the heads of government should take a very close look at other European countries.
Spain is doing well in the fight against the corona pandemic: Due to the low incidence figures (74), the government decided to cautiously relax. (Source: dpa)
In a European comparison, the fight against the pandemic can currently be divided into four groups – with different effects. An overview:
1. The cautious – example: Germany, Denmark
In the face of the third major corona wave, countries like Germany or Denmark very carefully. Although German politicians developed an opening strategy at the last federal-state summit, major easing of the measures will only be possible if the seven-day incidence per 100,000 inhabitants is below 50.
This ensures that a return to normality seems rather utopian at the moment, especially since vaccination is too slow in the country and a nationwide test strategy has not yet been implemented.
Fumble with similar care Denmark to relax. Thanks to a stabilization of the corona situation, the government is only now seeing scope for more easing. Health Minister Magnus Heunicke announced on Twitter that the R value is now 1.0 and that means that the infection rate is not increasing. “This gives us the basis for a further controlled opening.”
Denmark did not reopen retail until March. Despite easing, the situation has not worsened, although the British virus variant, which is considered more infectious, has now been found in around 80 percent of all positive tests, according to Heunicke.
Denmark can also allow itself to be relaxed further, as vaccination is faster than in Germany. There is also a functioning test strategy in Denmark with more freedom for those who tested negative.
Seven-day incidence: Germany 65, Denmark 76
2. The long partial lockdown – examples: France, Austria
France stuck to a partial lockdown strategy that winter: shops and schools stayed open, despite its geographical proximity to the UK and the UK mutation. The vaccination campaign also got off to a slow start in the country, it has a lower vaccination rate than Germany. The number of infections has remained constant at a high level for the past two months, but has not exploded, as in the UK, for example. The local reaction to rapid climbs is with exit restrictions.
Intensive care unit near Paris: The increasing number of new corona infections is once again a stress test for the French health system. (Source: Reuters)
This strategy is comparatively easy on the economy – especially the retail trade – but the hospitals in metropolises like Paris are increasingly reaching their limits and have to postpone operations.
Austria decided to relax a month ago. Shops were able to open in the normal course of business, and schools also have classroom teaching. But a negative corona test is a prerequisite for visiting shops or the hairdresser. The tests are available free of charge in pharmacies and test centers. However, the gastronomy remained closed to visitors in the Alpine republic.
(Corona deaths in the last 14 days in a European comparison)
With the easing, the Austrian government responded to the increasing dissatisfaction of the population and to large protest movements against the Corona measures – thousands demonstrated in Vienna last Saturday alone.
Even so, the seven-day incidence in Austria has almost doubled since the easing began. The government wants to respond to this with local measures. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called the increase in corona infections on Tuesday in the ARD an “expected development”. The increase in infections is still controllable.
Seven-day incidence: France 228, Austria 184
3. The risk-taking – example: Italy
Has been setting since autumn Italy on a corona traffic light system. For the determination of the danger levels, not only the seven-day incidence is decisive, but also the intensive care bed occupancy and the R-value. According to a total of 21 criteria, the country was divided into red, yellow and green zones.
Padua (Italy): Shops and restaurants in the yellow zone were allowed to reopen from the beginning of February. (Source: imago images)
At the beginning of the year, a “low risk of infection” (yellow) was found almost everywhere, despite an incidence of 140. The corona measures have therefore been relaxed since the beginning of February: schools taught face-to-face classes, shops opened, restaurants could be visited until 6 p.m. and also Museums received visitors again. Unlike in Austria, this has not been backed up by more tests.
The result: Since the British mutation also caught on in Italy, the number of infections has risen rapidly since the end of February. Health authorities in Italy reported almost 21,000 new infections within 24 hours on Sunday. That is why the traffic light turned red again in some regions, and easing was withdrawn.
Seven-day incidence: Italy 240
4. Those without a chance – example: Eastern Europe
While easing is being discussed in western and southern Europe, this is currently not an issue in eastern Europe. The number of corona infections rose rapidly in many countries. Czech Republic is currently the European corona hotspot with a seven-day incidence of 780. Nevertheless, there are also demonstrations for easing.
Protest in Prague: Despite a massive increase in corona infections, many people in the Czech Republic are demonstrating against the lockdown. (Source: dpa)
Poland believes that easing is only conceivable in May, should the country have reached the apex of a third wave of infections in March and April. Then health minister Adam Niedzielski will surely have a path ahead of them to dismantle restrictions. The number of new infections will probably be 15,250 on Thursday, he adds. The numbers showed that the third wave was gaining momentum, Niedzielski’s deputy Waldemar Kraska had said. Poland eased some restrictions in February, but announced that it would lift them again should the situation worsen.
Other seven-day incidences: Estonia 730, Poland 241
The overview shows that there is currently a very different infection rate in the countries of Europe. Germany is geographically in the center of the continent and currently has to be more careful just because of the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic. It is also clear: The corona mutations will also prevail on the European continent, which further increases the risk of a third wave with renewed uncontrolled, exponential growth.
Italy prematurely relaxed the corona measures – and now has to row back. This scenario not only fuels people’s anger, it worries virologists as well. They warn that another tough lockdown may be needed.
This poses a dilemma for German politicians: they have to sell a tired society a cautious easing course, if possible without arousing false hopes. As a result, there is now an opening strategy for Germany that will not work in the short term due to the still too high seven-day incidence. A look abroad shows that in this case it could pay off that Germany is running late again.