US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Germany is often called a positive example of how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. We have successfully prevented overloading our healthcare system. The curve of the number of cases of infection is clearly smoothed. And the proportion of severe and fatal cases in Germany is lower than in many other countries. But all this does not make us overconfident; we hold on modestly.
I see three reasons that – so far – allow Germany to go through this crisis relatively calmly. First, the German health care system was in good shape on the eve of the crisis; everyone in the country has full access to medical services. It is not only the current government’s merit; it is the merit of a system built over time by many governments. Thanks to the excellent network of therapists who took care of the treatment for mild cases of Covid-19, hospitals were able to focus on more severe cases of this disease.
Secondly, Germany was not the first country to be hit by the virus, and therefore we had time to prepare. Although we always have a relatively large number of accessible hospital beds (especially in intensive care units), from the very beginning we took seriously the threat of Covid-19. Accordingly, the number of places in intensive care units was quickly increased: from 12 thousand beds to 40 thousand.
Thirdly, in Germany there are many laboratories that can carry out virus tests, and many outstanding specialists on this topic work here, which helps explain why the first quick test for Covid-19 was developed here. With a population of 83 million people, we are able to carry out up to one million diagnostic tests per day, and will soon be able to conduct about five million monthly antibody tests. Mass testing is like a flashlight in the dark: without it, you can only see gray shadows; and with it you can clearly and immediately see the details. And if it comes to an outbreak, you cannot control what you cannot see.
Yes, of course, as the German Federal Minister of Health, I understand that we only see a momentary picture. No one can predict with certainty how this pandemic will develop in a few weeks or months. We did not introduce strict national quarantine, but we asked citizens to voluntarily stay at home. Like many other countries, for two months we lived in conditions of severe restrictions on public and private life. Judging by what we know, such measures are necessary and effective.
Nevertheless, the consequences of quarantine cannot be ignored, and that is why we are gradually trying to return to normal. The problem is that phasing out protective measures is potentially no less difficult than introducing them. We are currently working in a situation of deep uncertainty, but we can be sure of the threat of the second wave of the epidemic. And so we remain vigilant.
Only time will tell whether our decisions were correct, so at the moment I will be careful with conclusions from the current crisis. However, some conclusions now seem obvious.
First, it is critical that governments inform society not only about what they know, but also about what they don’t know. This is the only way to build the trust needed to fight the lethal virus in a democratic society. No democracy can force citizens to change their behavior – at least without facing high costs. Transparency and reliable information are much more effective than coercion; they allow you to organize coordinated, collective actions.
In Germany, we have succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus, because the vast majority of citizens want to cooperate – out of a sense of responsibility for themselves and others. However, in order to maintain these successes, the government is obliged to supplement timely information about the virus with open public debate and a roadmap showing the path to recovery and recovery.
Secondly, in addition to informing the public, governments must show that they rely on citizens, on their understanding of the situation and what it requires. German citizens are informed and therefore know that a return to normal is not possible without a vaccine. In our new daily routine, we are guided by the following formula: strive for the highest possible normality with the most necessary protective measures.
As long as our decisions on where and how to relax restrictions meet clear and reasonable criteria, we are confident that German citizens will support them. Our decisions should be based on facts, and their goal should be to reduce the risk of infection. We know that social distance is the most effective protection measure. When people stay at least 1.5 meters apart, the risk of infection is significantly reduced. The risk is reduced even more if we can guarantee compliance with basic hygiene rules. Other residual risks can be dealt with in various ways, depending on the situation.
Third, the pandemic showed why an interconnected world needs crisis management at the global level. Unfortunately, in recent years it has become more difficult to engage in multilateral cooperation, even between close allies. Today we see how much we need each other, so the current crisis should be an awakening bell. No single country can cope with a pandemic alone. We need international coordination, and if the institutions that exist just for this purpose do not function well, then we must work together to improve them.
Fourth, we Europeans must reconsider our approaches to globalization and realize that it is critical to produce essential goods (for example, medical supplies and equipment) within the European Union. We will need to diversify production chains in order to avoid total dependence on any one country or region. However, rethinking globalization does not mean a reduction in international cooperation. On the contrary, the joint efforts of the EU countries are already stimulating progress towards the discovery of the vaccine. Once this happens, it will be very prudent to guarantee that it is produced in Europe, although it will be available to the whole world.
Like most crises, the current crisis opens up new possibilities. In many areas, he made us show the best qualities: a new sense of community, increased willingness to help others, a surge of flexibility and creativity. There can be no doubt that the medium-term effects of the pandemic will be dire. But despite all the difficulties and uncertainties that lie ahead, I remain optimistic. In Germany and in other countries, we see what our liberal democracies and citizens are capable of.
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