I look at the current situation as our halftime analysis of Germany’s lockdown-light policies, which have been in place since November 2nd and calls for restaurants and bars to be closed, together with theaters and places of entertainment. All large-scale events minus demonstrations and church services to be cancelled, amateur sports clubs to be shut down and lastly, professional sports to be held without spectators.
And as a result?
A half-assed show fulled with demonstrators from all aspects- from Q-anon to Querdenker, far left to far right scenes, including the notorious AfD, flooding the streets of Leipzig, of Berlin, and as recently as Wednesday, the Bundestag Building. Federal judges and the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe being sprayed with lawsuits overturning the regulations. The population being coaxed into conspiracy theories, which already has a solid foundation in the United States.
With Christmas markets already cancelled for this year, followed by Christmas concerts and church services, with schools being forced to close because of new cases despite attempts to keep them open and with mouth masks, with event providers, eateries and small businesses facing the prospects of bankruptcy come next year, and with the number of Covid-19 cases about to approach the 1 million mark, most likely before the end of this year, our question to Madame Chancellor is:
What is left to do? What can we do to acknowledge the fact that the lockdown light is not working and that we can help those affected by the virus, both in the medical and education sectors as well as with families?
It’s no secret that Germany is experiencing a „jet ski-effect.“ That means a steady increase in the number of new Corona cases during the week followed by a sharp drop-off towards the beginning of the following week. Steady increase, then a steep drop. The measures that have been carried out to present hasn’t worked as effectively as the German government had expected. And we’re at the very beginning of what could be the longest and harshest winter on record, not only because of the potential of sharp increases in the virus, but also the flu season which is starting even as this editorial is being posted. Not even the mask mandate will help stem the flow because of the high number of people in crowded places, even in schools.
So let’s just face the facts; the inevitable that is staring down at us: We will never make it through the winter unless we really crack down and save as many people as we can. We cannot save both the economy and the population. One has to give and we know that life can never be replaced. With 2020 indeed a wipe-out year, let’s just do what our European neighbors are doing right now, what many states in America are doing right now, post-Trump. Here are some suggestions for Madame Chancellor and the ministers of every 16 states to consider:
Curfew: This is currently being practiced in neighboring EU countries at present and was used during the first lockdown. Furthermore, many cities and states in the US have started initiating this recently, as a way of stopping the steep climb in daily infection cases and deaths. The curfew should be blanketed and include all areas of the country. A curfew of between 8:00pm and 5:00pm on weekdays and between 4:00pm and 9:00am on weekends will be more significant in reducing the number of infections. Merkel had recently proposed a “one best friend rule” when going out and about. That was shot down by even her own party and would isolate people more than necessary, even the children. Yet a curfew as proposed here would allow for time to meet during certain times and do the necessary businesses.
Ban the demos, period! The latest lockdown light in place called for banning large scale events and in-person attendance at sporting events but allowed for demonstrations and church services to continue under certain hygiene conditions. After the Querdenker demonstration of over 50,000 people in Leipzig and the subsequent overrunning of the police force, combined with another “Buss & Bettag” demo in Berlin, one point is definitely clear: a total ban of public events should be called for- especially demonstrations big and small. And to ensure they are enforced, undercover tactics to spy and infiltrate the extremists’ and Querdenker camps to identify the those trying to arrange such demos and punish them with fines and jail time may be needed to avoid what happened in Leipzig and Berlin. As for church gatherings, one should consider virtual services to encourage people to worship from home. We have the technology and the 5G, so henceforth, let us try it.
Get as many people to work in the medical and social sectors as possible: Doctors, nurses and medical experts are in extreme shortage. Not far behind are teachers and those working in law enforcement. Why not reintroduce the civil service program (Zivildienst) and pay those who are out of a job to help hospitals, as well as in civilian defense and law enforcement sectors? This would apply for not only highschool and college graduates and younger people looking for jobs but also those freelancing, for this would be a way of looking for different options. Especially as we are expecting a big wave of business failures during the first half of next year and as a consequence, we will have a very long recession to deal with.
This civil service program was part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal plan when we had our last Great Depression in the 1930s. In fact, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration were two civilian programs that reduced the unemployment rate from 35 percent to under 10 percent by the time the US entered WWII in 1941. Germany has been without a Zivildienst since 2008. It’s time to restart it and get people back to work in the sections that are in dire need.
Virtual Education: To Ms. Karlicek who suggested masks in the classroom and teaching in makeshift buildings and to Mr. Altmeier who suggested teaching in closed restaurants and hotels:
Be honest with me: How effective would this be? Being a teacher myself and having experience wearing a mask in the classroom, I can only say that masks are effective but for only a certain time. The idea of masks in a crowded classroom is just as boneheaded as going without and practicing herd immunity. Half group classes are more effective when you demand in-person education. Yet in this age, full online courses from home should be used again. It helps children because they would be less exposed to the virus and they can learn without having to go to school. Yet an emergency school setting should be in place should it not be possible to learn from home. Yet certain criteria must be made in advance. The virtual schooling from home should be in effect until the first vaccine shots are given.
Priority Vaccination: With three companies having successfully tested Covid-19 vaccines, it is also time to start prioritizing who to innoculate. With over 82 million residents, we need to ensure that there is priority so that those at high risks get it first. This starts with those with pre-existing conditions, followed by those working in the medical sector, then the education sector (children, teachers and parents), then the civil services and law enforcement sectors and then lastly the rest of the population. Furthermore, as Covid-19 is a very dangerous virus, vaccinations should be made mandatory, especially for kids. Those who refuse, should be sanctioned and/or fined.
New Deals for businesses: This one is already in use for the entertainment and eatery sections, yet the government should step in and help the rest, even if it is for the long-term. Roosevelt’s policies in the 1930s did much to help banks and businesses get on their feet and for the eatery section to be functional again. Yet such New Deals like Roosevelt’s lasted for many years until businesses were healthy and able to function on its own. With a series of New Deals in light of the Corona Virus, we’re looking at 3-5 years until we return to a normalcy last seen at the end of 2019. Short term fixes will not help, and some of the bailouts that have already been introduced up until now are rain drops on hot rocks. The government needs to step in and regulate while helping businesses get healthy again, and this will require years of hard work and patience.
Once the lockdown is done, which my prediction will be not before April 1st, the next steps we need to take is to look back at what went wrong before the Corona Virus made it to the scene and consider some fundamental changes to how we treat the environment and other people. After the virus passes, we will need to put health care and environmental protection to the very top of the priority list and consider changes that will help us avoid another virus wave, like we see with Covid-19. As a government and as the people, we all have ourselves to blame for our selfishness, and it is no secret that Covid-19 was created due to global warming and excessive consumption. It’s time to sit down and make a list of the necessities versus the wants and decide what is important for us versus what is important for the other people. If there is a slogan behind the Covid-19 pandemic it is this:
The Me Age is Over- It’s time to listen because that is something that we have not done.
And with that, we should make use of the lockdown and ask ourselves the following questions:
- Are we willing to sacrifice ourselves and our own interests in order to have a better life for ourselves and for others?
- What can we do that will benefit the environment and other people?
- What can we do to protect our democracy and the elements that harm it?
- Are we willing to embrace in new things that are available, especially when it comes to fields of work that are lacking people, like in the sectors mentioned?
- Are we willing to make these changes in order to have a better life and be happy?
The tougher lockdowns that are to come, regardless of which, should be the time to reflect on the situation we are in now and how we can not only get out of it but avoid a repeat. Learning the lesson from Merkel’s Lockdown Light, we need to look at the situation and the causes in the eye and do the measures necessary to make things better. Looking at Roosevelt’s policies, they took hard work, toil and pain but in the long term, things were much better, especially as we entered the golden age of the 1950s. With the suggestions mentioned here, the adverse effects are short term; the long term will reap more awards than anything that is less. And that includes doing what is best for the next generations.
My two cents on the topic of Covid-19, the current policies and the need to reshape our environment and society to avoid a repeat of what we dealt with thusfar…..