No crisis can be averted with personal responsibility alone. Politics makes it too easy for itself – and should act. The editorial.
The Germans are a cautious people. They swear by legal limit values for everything harmful to health, by strict regulations on hazard prevention, by state provisions for old age and health – and would never drive straight into a traffic jam despite advance warning from the traffic radio.
The corona situation here is very similar: the warnings came early, and it was clear that without a change in course we would have problems again at the end of the year.
We can already see the accumulation of hazard warning lights: The new infections are reaching new record levels. The growth is no longer linear, but again with a reproduction factor of 1.4 – more and more health authorities are threatening to fail when the chains of infection are broken. More older people have long been infected again. The intensive care beds in the clinics are not fully utilized, but there is a risk of staff shortages.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has already tightened her tone again and appeals to avoid unnecessary contacts and trips. It was a message that sounded like desperation: While a number of country bosses were haggling recently to avoid major cuts in their country, Merkel’s appeal sounded like the last chance the Germans could take independent countermeasures.
She already put the gloomy alternative in the room: If the increase in the infection curve is not slowed down in the weeks up to Christmas, Christmas is also at risk after Easter.
For many Germans, there are hardly more painful cuts than December without a visit and without a get-together. But even longer winter holidays with childcare problems or home schooling, business closings and going out bans are not a contemplative prospect.
But does it really have to be? The question can be asked in two ways.
On the one hand, there are the experiences from the spring – hamster purchases, school closings, contact bans and clinics with the expansion of intensive care beds as the only priority – and the memories of the summer, with carefree trips, repeated festivals and the feeling that Corona is half as bad. Some people therefore think that politics can do without overly strict rules, even with record infection numbers.
Indeed, today we can better distinguish between effective and excessive measures. Schools are not sources of infection. Not all infected people get seriously ill. Partying and breathing the same air for hours on end are more dangerous than shopping. We have to learn from this.
However, the summer does not prove that the rules were unnecessary – on the contrary: the contact blocks in spring bought the later relaxation.
Now one can be of the opinion that it depends on the attempt: Perhaps 20,000 new infections per day can be endured? Maybe slight gradients predominate?
But it does not suit the people of the preventive to drive unchecked towards the end of the traffic jam. New surveys show that: between 70 and 90 percent of Germans want strict conditions.
That does not speak against anti-corona demonstrations like this Sunday in Dortmund and also not against the polemics that individual libertarians are launching in large and small media against the “guardianship state”. Even in the pandemic, the discourse must not die. The lateral thinkers just have to make it clear that they speak for minorities.
However, if the vast majority want strict rules – why are infections increasing at all?
Behind this is an effect that we know from the climate debate: the individual never thinks they are the problem. And in fact, negligence only becomes a danger in the millions.
That is why politicians make it too easy for themselves when they hold individual citizens responsible.
It is correct: the Germans have shown a high willingness to make sacrifices. However, a crisis cannot be averted through personal responsibility alone. But the individual lacks information on the current state of research, the leisure and the perspective.
It is the task of politics to plan ahead. If you build dams that are too small now, everything will get out of control in a few weeks.
This became evident after the summer holidays, when politicians had to improvise due to the foreseeable problem of infected travelers returning home. And the fact that autumn holidays are connected with travel should not have been so surprising.
Politicians have to go on the offensive: increase the health authorities, avert impending staff shortages in intensive care units, help unbureaucratically with the implementation of hygiene concepts in restaurants and schools.
That is the second way of asking after the canceled Christmas party: Does it have to be – so, can’t it be averted now?
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