by Thorsten Koch
Anyone who has traveled to risk areas as a tourist and returns to Germany must be tested for the Coronavirus from Saturday, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) announced. A legal provision that provides for a smear examination being taken will then be in force. Spahn said he was aware that it was a step that somewhat encroached upon the “freedom of the individual,” but the step was reasonable. Freedom on the one hand, responsibility for society on the other. The tests will be free of charge for returnees from high-risk areas.
Before Spahn’s announcement, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) had announced, and that for the first time in two months, a number of new Covid infections that exceeded 1,000 cases. Spahn emphasized that new chains of infection had to be prevented. Everyone must be aware that the pandemic is still going on, he said. The basis for the regulations to protect people against the coronavirus is the Infection Protection Act, according to which measures can be taken if an epidemic situation occurs at national level. The Bundestag had determined this through a vote.
The majority of Germans is for wearing masks
The move by the Federal Minister of Health is one of a number of measures that are intended to limit the spread of the Coronavirus in Germany. Against this background, a large majority of Germans are positive about the measures comprising the distance requirement and the requirement to wear a mask in many places. The opinion research institute YouGov found the absolute majority in Germany to be in favor of penalties for those who disregard the Corona restrictions. According to YouGov, only 14 percent reject the concept of penalties.
Some have recently taken to the streets. But only 20,000 demonstrators demonstrated against the corona rules at a main rally in Berlin most recently. Numerous opponents of the rules did not comply with the applicable distance rules during the protests. Most wore no mouth-nose protection.
According to the opinion research institute Kantar/Emnid, then, an even greater majority of Germans than those in favor of sanctioning are in favor of the mask requirement being maintained: 81 percent of those questioned are in favor of the measure, according to the representative survey. Only 18 percent are in favor of the regulation being repealed.
German President Frank Walter Steinmeier has appealed to not be frivolous in any way in view of the increasing number of new infections in Germany. A “second lockdown” can only be prevented through a sense of responsibility. Not only does the disregard of caution endanger the health of many people. In addition, economic recovery and the well-being of society as a whole are at stake. Steinmeier said that in addition to the distance requirement, hygiene rules should be observed and a mask should be worn in places where instructed. Steinmeher warned to exercise patience. Irresponsibility poses a risk to the general public.
The CDU-CSU has meanwhile recommended that meetings of Corona skeptics such as the last one in Berlin “only be approved under much stricter conditions or not at all”, since the opponents of the state measures publicly exhibited the violations of the rules. They attacked the press, and in some cases dealt with the police forces uneasily. According to expert Armin Schuster (CDU), this justifies and necessitates a “much more consistent approach by the authorities” in charge of allowing assemblies.
Spahn: demonstrations not like this
Two demonstrations had been held in Berlin, which the police broke up early. At first, the prescribed distances had been disregarded. Most of the demonstrators, who according to media reports were conspiracy theorists and some right-wing radicals, did not wear masks. Belonging to right-wing groups was evident from symbols on the clothing of the opponents of Corona, from their banners, and from tattoos. The AfD party showed solidarity with the Corona opponents. After they had seen the pictures of the demonstrations, it is commendable that many people took to the streets, claimed AfD boss Chrupalla. The Coronavirus was not a threat, added Chrupalla. Right-wing extremism expert Liane Bednarz commented that the AfD wanted attention and staged itself as an anti-establishment party.
According to Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, demonstrations should be possible in the health crisis, but not in the way this had last taken place. The pandemic can only be overcome through reason, patience and team spirit, he said. During the demonstrations by the Corona opponents, counter-demonstrations took place at the Brandenburg Gate.
Söder: no time to be careless
The chairman of the CSU and Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder, meanwhile, expressed his position that he would not decide to further relax the regulations to protect against the Coronavirus. It can be assumed that the pandemic will return to Germany with full force, he said in an interview. He was very concerned about the high number of new infections. Many people, including those returning from vacation in various European countries, have again become careless. It is not time for further easing and naive imprudence. Söder asked Deutsche Bahn to ensure compliance with the mask requirement. This required higher fines, he pointed out. The majority of the reasonable should be protected from those who put others in danger.
Almost at the same time, Federal Minister of Economics Peter Altmaier spoke out in favor of higher penalties if the applicable corona rules were violated. He emphasized: “Anyone who deliberately endangers others must expect that this will have serious consequences for him.” The economic upswing, which is only just beginning, should not be jeopardized by the fact that the number of infections is rising again. Here, politics must take countermeasures so that there is no further lockdown. Only a “very small number of people” behave irresponsibly and carelessly.
The vast majority of the population was extremely responsible during the pandemic, Altmaier emphasized. Violations must be punished more effectively, especially in the case of intent, and of negligence: “Anyone who drives the bus or train without a mask is not endangering themselves, but others … should be punished if necessary. ” Violations could have serious economic consequences.
Economists confirmed the position of the Federal Minister of Economics. “A second wave could be economically more damaging than the first,” emphasized the President of the German Institute for Economic Research, Marcel Fratzscher. Numerous companies are hit.
The director of the Institute of German Economics, Michael Hüther, recommends regional measures before a second nationwide lockdown. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also issued a warning of a high number of new infections and appealed to the population to adhere to the hygiene rules. The pandemic was under control during the lockdown and the introduction of hygiene rules. Some people have become careless. Celebrating wild parties is negligent. Wieler called for mouth and nose protection to be worn outdoors if people could not keep enough distance, and properly. Adequate ventilation should be provided in rooms. Thus, it will be possible to contain the Coronavirus, according to a spokesman for the RKI.
Breaking infection chains early on
The Federal Government and the governments of the Federal States have now agreed to interrupt chains of infection as early as possible in a more targeted manner when they occur. In future, there should be local or regional exit restrictions for residents of communities and workers in companies, and entry into affected places or parts thereof should as well be restricted. “Faster, smaller-scale, more precise, that is what we agree on today,” summarized the head of the German Chancellery, Helge Braun.
Braun confirmed that the Federal Government was talking to the chancelleries of the Federal States “how to optimize this procedure again if a hotspot suddenly appears so that we can react very precisely and as quickly as possible”. One specifically discussed whether it makes more sense to say: “As precisely as possible, everyone in this region will stay at home … to test so extensively that after a few days, we can say that we have completely covered all infection chains,” Braun explained.
As a result, one would quickly be able to “go back to normal”. After extensive tests, further restrictions or easing could be achieved. “Restrictions should also lose some horror,” emphasized Braun. Local restrictions can be limited to just a few days instead of affecting an entire district or an entire urban district. With regard to vacationers infected with Corona, there is still an obligation to self-quarantine, at home, for 14 days.
The German government called for the Corona warning app to be used more as a tool against the Corona pandemic. Technical problems that led to the smartphone application not working correctly have now been resolved. The warning app was installed on their mobile devices by more than 16 million people within a month and a half.