Friday, October 30

Limit for risk areas: fifty here is not like fifty there


Dhe fifty is a powerful number. It can prevent business travel, cause curfew and break up family celebrations. If more than fifty people per 100,000 inhabitants in a municipality are infected with Corona within a week, the alarm will sound. The municipality must report to the Robert Koch Institute that it is a risk area, a so-called hotspot. That has consequences. Private celebrations with more than ten guests are prohibited. All bars close at 11pm. In some places you can only stay in hotels if you have a negative corona test. And all of these measures must remain in place until the so-called incidence rate has fallen back below fifty. Anyone who lives in such a risk area lives very differently than someone for whom the number is 46 or 49. The fifty fits the different districts in Germany like a shoe in one size. Some slip out while running, others don’t even get in. That’s why there was so much argument about the number in the beginning.

Justus Bender

Justus Bender

Editor in politics for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

If it had been up to Chancellery Minister Helge Braun, fifty would have been 35. When the federal and state governments set the limit value in May, Braun said that from a value of 35 the health authorities were overwhelmed. If the health department fails to warn everyone who has had close contact with an infected person, the virus will spread unchecked. At fifty, it wasn’t about the utilization of the intensive care beds, like in the spring. It was all about how many people the health department can warn in a week. So whether there are still a few dozen civil servants, students or soldiers in every city who can dial phone numbers all day long and tell people that they might have Corona.

Braun wanted 35 instead of 50

Braun said in May: From 35, the offices can no longer do that. The countries said: We don’t want to go into many mini lockdowns straight away after the national lockdown. So they traded the value up to fifty. The number has been in effect ever since.

Bundeswehr soldier in Hanover tracking infection chains


Bundeswehr soldier in Hanover tracking infection chains
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Image: dpa

Many consider it dangerous to question this threshold, for example the county day. “We have no reason to doubt the number that was set at the time, and we shouldn’t,” says the chairman of the district council, the Ostholstein district administrator Reinhard Sager. “Furthermore, we must not unsettle the population and repeatedly question the framework in which we operate.” After all, the number is “an important orientation”. Those who question them are weakening the uniformity with which Germany is responding to the pandemic.

However, the justification for the limit value is shaky anyway, whether the district council wants it or not. Many offices have long been able to track more contacts than those of fifty infected people per 100,000 inhabitants in seven days. Others have never managed so many. So some are declared too early, others too late, as risk areas.


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