In deep complacency we still bask in the praise of foreign press that Germany has done well. Praise that could soon prove toxic. The omens of a second wave are multiplying, the numbers are already rising again; but it seems as if we have rather helplessly surrendered to the inevitable. Or why do many politicians seem surprised that so many people returning from holiday bring the virus with them? The clusters from the Austrian Wolfgangsee – as well as the pictures of party people on Mallorca or in Berlin – are alarming.
What will we do if the disease returns with power? What strategy does the Federal Chancellery have? There are no clear answers yet. Not even to the question of who is to be tested and who will pay for it.
The policy of shutdown had greatly reduced the number of new infections, but it was not able to eradicate the virus completely. Even outbreaks like the one in Gütersloh or recently in Mamming have shown that the virus is always finding niches. At the same time, the shutdown, our most important weapon in the fight against the epidemic so far, is also the most (self-)destructive. The social and economic consequences of the closure of schools and shops, of the far-reaching shutdown of public life are so fatal that it is not yet possible to assess them. So far, they are only visible to most people in their tender beginnings. Anyone who claims that we have escaped economically once again should wait until winter. Many companies have long since used up their reserves. This winter will be a winter of pain.
We are not yet feeling the full force of the pain, nor are large areas of economic life sedated by short-time work. In just a few months, when most of these and other aid measures expire, numerous bankruptcies and rapidly rising unemployment figures are as good as certain. In their warnings, economic researchers such as those from the Munich-based Ifo Institute no longer speak of a recession, but rather of something like a meltdown in the event of repeated shutdowns. Social security funds are already beginning to empty their coffers and it is to be feared that health insurers will soon cut benefits. Economic welfare and health care are not adversaries, they are mutually dependent.[“We can’t just lock ourselves in our houses forever. We can’t wait for a vaccine. A vaccine may or may not come. Never, doctors say, has a vaccine been developed against this type of virus. We cannot freeze public life again and again without risking economic collapse. It is an illusion to assume that people would accept the same amount of drastic measures in their everyday lives again. So what remains? “]
What remains is the remedy that has proved effective in other countries in the fight against the epidemic, but which we have so far so vehemently rejected: tracing. The consistent tracing of chains of infection as in South Korea. On several occasions in recent months, the authorities there have succeeded in containing the epidemic – and without shutdown.
In South Korea, the authorities do not rely on the voluntary principle when searching for contact persons of infected persons. Those who are infected are asked about their contacts there immediately after the test results. The movement log of his mobile phone for the last 14 days is read out by the mobile phone operator and made available to the health authorities. Each individual case is investigated at great expense, just as the criminal investigation department does when searching for criminals. After all, anyone carrying the virus endangers lives. The investigators use recordings from surveillance cameras to identify possible contact persons, as well as data from credit banks. They use all the methods they would use if they wanted to track down a murder suspect who is on the loose and could strike again at any time.
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