Simplicity is key. Simplicity is something people needed in order to be clearly informed and take measures. Simplicity is what is missing from the Corona Measures that the German government passed in the wee hours of the morning. For those who have tested their nerves for endurance and tolerance towards the Lockdown that has been in place since mid-December, congratulations! You’ve earned it as you now have a chance to meet your friends again- but only in limited numbers. For restaurants and cafés struggling to keep afloat, you will be able to entertain guests very soon- before Easter. For hospitals and medical facilities, you bought yourselves enough time to prepare for the third wave!
Wait a minute! Take that back. Many are not happy with the loosening of the lockdown.
As the measures were being introduced, the number of daily Corona cases in Germany jumped to 12,000 with the incidence rate stabilizing at 65 per 100,000. Other countries are bracing for a third wave due to the prevalence of the variants from Brazil, Britain, South Africa and even one emerged from New York State last week. These variants are more dangerous than the original virus itself as they can spread three to six times as fast.
Yet businesses have suffered from the effects of the lockdown. No matter which sector- travel, commerce, gardening, clothing, retail, gastronomy, culture- all have sustained losses from a lack of visitors and some businesses have either shuttered or are planning to because they don’t have the liquidity nor the visitors to carry on. Therefore the government became sandwiched between the two extremes- business and the virus; profits versus people’s lives; freedom versus confinement.
So what do we have for new measures, which will take place come next week?
Lockdown will be extended through March 28th, however the restrictions will be loosened. Specifically:
- There is a five-step plan to relaxing restrictions on a regional or state level
- Each step will be taken every 14 days if regional infection numbers are stable or reduced
- An emergency brake system will return regions to current lockdown levels if there are three consecutive days with an incidence rate above 100 per 100,000 people per week
- At least one free rapid test per week will be available for all residents of Germany starting March 8
The five-step guidelines features the following:
- Step one: Schools, daycare, and hairdressers reopen. This step already took place in some states and on some education levels on Monday, March 1.
- Step two, starting March 8: Bookstores and florists can reopen with the condition of one customer per 10 square meters. Contact-based professions, such as massage practices, are also allowed to reopen with a negative test result.
- Step three, starting March 8 at the earliest: If the recorded cases are less than 50 per 100,000 people, public spaces such asmuseums, zoos and gardens can reopen, as well as retail businesses with at least 10 square meters of space per customer. In addition, up to 10 people can play non-contact outdoor sports. If the incidence rate is between 50 to 100, access to spaces such as museums and retail businesses would be on a pre-booking basis, with at least 40 square meters per customer in shops. And lastly, a maximum of five people, from no more than two households, could then play non-contact outdoor sports.
- Step four, starting March 22 at the earliest: If the rate remains under 50, outdoor dining, theaters, concert venues, cinemas and opera houses can reopen. People could then practice non-contact sports indoors and contact sports outdoors. If the infection rate is between 50 to 100, outdoor dining would only be allowed on a pre-booking basis.
- Step five, starting April 5 at the earliest: If the infection rate remains under 50, up to 50 people can gather for outdoor recreational events, and sports restrictions will be lifted. If the infection rate is between 50 to 100, shops can reopen with at least 10 square meters per customer. Outdoor non-contact sports and indoor contact-based exercises are allowed.
The key factors are that the people are required to undergo testing on a daily basis and the results must be presented up to 48 hours before entering a store and for most places, appointments must be made in advance, which means walk-ins are not allowed. And a limit inside stores are possible in order reduce the number of people inside the stores.
This leads to my question based on the heading: Is it a Lockdown Light, Lockdown on an Eye-to-Eye Level (Augenmass) or Loosening of the Guidelines? This one I have no answer to, but it depends on the perspectives seen. As a merchant, it feels like lockdown light with limited service and arbitrary openings and closings, which may be potentially fatal for some. As a customer, who has to stand in line, it’s an eye-to-eye lockdown to ensure everyone takes their turn entering and upon entrance in the store, the time is limited. You cannot walk-in spontaneously nor dawdle in the stores, which most people sometimes do. So much for window-shopping and when it comes to efficiency in time and shopping, much of it will be spent in line waiting to enter the shops, while we encounter passers-by, especially in the shopping miles in the city centers in Germany. Yet it’s loosening of the guidelines because it gives us some fresh air and time to see our friends and relatives- in person. While birthday parties and picnics are limited, it’s better than being alone, right?
But if you want my opinion of whether these guidelines help, my answer has to be a „Jein!“ (YEIN!)- a combination of yes and no! We’re moving towards a sense of normalcy where we can visit people again and do some shopping, yet the five-step plan is complicated and will cause confusion among merchants, the city council and even the state for two reasons:
- The Emergency Brake of 100 per 100,000- Some states, like Saxony and some districts, like in northeastern Bavaria have to wait before they allow for stores to reopen because of high rates of Covid-19. It’s considered very arbitrary and could result in legal challenges. Furthermore, it’s like playing musical chairs- one week you open but when the incidence rate jumps to over 100, you close down, yet some businesses will be able to take a seat while others will be forced to walk.
- Simplicity. I started with this word in my column and will say it again. Simplicity is the key for addressing measures like this in order for the public to understand the situation and act accordingly as described by the government and the guidelines. This new plan may be easy to understand by a scholar, yet for the common folk, it’s too complicated and will result in conflict in interest and again, legal challenges.
Germany, like Europe and the United States, is unable to adapt to new scenarios like the Corona Virus and have tried everything possible to make things easier for everyone, but in all reality, it is considered more complicated to understand (at least indirectly). Furthermore, restrictions have resulted in rebellions in some states, like in Texas and Mississippi, which have announced the total lifting of restrictions including wearing masks. In order to ensure that people understand the situation and act properly without causing a riot, laws that are passed must be simple and easy to understand, yet they must be transparent and benefit everyone. Up until now and with the recent guidelines, no one will be happy and there will be legal challenges in the weeks to come. What we need is a black-and-white approach, which means either all must open but with some restrictions, like wearing masks and limiting people who shop or all must close until 60-70% of the population are innoculated and businesses must reinvent themselves.
But before going to this black-and-white approach, we must look to our other friends who have gone through the Covid-19 and the restrictions- namely New Zealand, China, Vietnam, Canada and other countries. Research on what they did in response to Corona and try to adopt this to our plan. The question must be answered with this: „How have our international partners responded to the virus and what was the effect on the public? How have the people cooperated with the government with the guidelines?“ For some reasons, we’re too inflexible and too complicated to respond to the virus.
And this is dangerous, for we need our neighbors should another virus come in the future. Asia has learned from SARS in 2003. It’s time we learn from the Corona Virus to plan for the future . And we must keep it simple. Simplicity is the key.