German federal government prepares to abolish coronavirus safety measures
As the rate of coronavirus infections reaches new heights and the even more infectious BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron spreads, the German government is set to end the last existing measures to protect against the virus . In doing so, it follows the example of the United States and other European countries.
The 7-day incidence is now 1,472 infections (per 100,000 population), with 240,000 people newly infected in a single day. In every district of Germany the incidence rate is over 500. In 342 counties it is over 1,000 and in 48 counties over 2,000. The highest incidence is in Eichstätt county, with an incidence value of 3,897.
The rising number of infections is accompanied by a catastrophic increase in cases occurring in hospitals and nursing homes. Last week alone, there were 174 outbreaks in medical care facilities (20 more than the previous week) and 373 outbreaks in nursing homes and nursing homes (127 more than the previous week).
The number of serious epidemics also continues to increase. On Friday, more than 1,750 people were hospitalized. The adjusted incidence of hospitalizations is now around 11 (weekly hospitalizations per 100,000 population), doubling in one month. The percentage of free intensive care beds remains just above 10%, which is considered the limit of hospitals’ response capacity. Nearly 1,000 people have died since the start of the week.
Schools remain a central driver of infection. Among 15-34-year-olds, the 7-day incidence is 1,988, while among 5-14-year-olds it reaches 4,187. In the past four weeks, 2,124 outbreaks of coronavirus have been reported in schools , and that figure is expected to increase as late reports arrive. The number of epidemics in schools is therefore four times higher than at the height of the epidemics last year.
Of particular concern is the rapid spread of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron, which has seen its share of infections quintuple since the start of the year. It is currently thought to be 30% more infectious than BA.1 and can re-infect people within weeks of a BA.1 Omicron infection.
The ruling class is reacting to this wave of infections by announcing even more comprehensive measures to reopen and even by promising an end to all remaining pandemic security measures. Federal and state governments are vying for the fastest opening.
In his inaugural address to the Bundesrat (Federal Council) on Friday, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (Social Democrat, SPD) said that “the peak of the wave is in sight”, despite the explosion in the number of cases. “This allows us to consider a first stage of reopening at the Federal States meeting next week, as well as others for the spring.”
Scholz justified this with the absurd claim that “particularly elderly citizens were fortunately not strongly affected by the Omicron wave”. In view of the hundreds of outbreaks in nursing homes each week, this statement can only be considered an outright lie. In the past week alone, 660 people over the age of 60 have died from coronavirus.
At the same time, the Chancellor openly admits that nurses and doctors are working to their limits and tries to present as a success the fact that the healthcare system has not collapsed: “Our healthcare system, despite strong pressure on doctors and hospital staff, has been retained so far.
As Scholz announces steps toward reopening in the spring, other parts of his government want to reopen sooner. Current infection control measures remain in effect until March 20. After that, the Bundestag will vote on whether to extend them for another three months. The leader of the liberal parliamentary group (FDP), Christian Dürr, told the Funky Mediengruppe newspapers that all remaining protective measures should be lifted at that time: “On March 20, Germany should return to normal.”
But looser restrictions are needed before that, he told ARD and ZDF Morgenmagazin. The focus should be on creating a “smooth transition” to March 20 with gradual relaxations, he said. First to fall should be vaccination (or proof of recovery) requirements in retail, contact tracing and contact restrictions for private gatherings.
While federal government officials are still talking only about relaxations, the states are already implementing them. Last week, all German states uniformly decided to raise the maximum number of spectators allowed at large outdoor events to 10,000. The state governments of Schleswig-Holstein and Hesse have announced the end of vaccination or recovery regulations in the retail sector. Today, more and more states are following suit.
Bavaria, which is currently the state with the highest incidence, has announced that it will lift the curfew on pubs and further increase the maximum number of spectators at major events. For sporting events, 15,000 instead of 10,000 spectators will be authorized and the maximum occupancy rate will increase from 25% to 50%. For cultural events, the occupancy rate will even increase from 50% to 75%.
After Schleswig-Holstein and Hesse, the Länder of Berlin and Brandenburg have also announced that they are canceling regulations on vaccination or recovery in the retail sector. In Brandenburg, the night curfew for unvaccinated people in sensitive regions is also to be abolished.
The implementation of this relaxation of safety rules contradicts all scientific reasoning and risks thousands of deaths. Klaus Reinhardt, president of the German Medical Association, warned in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung against relaxing regulations: “We still lack reliable and comprehensive data on the current incidence of infection. It is therefore difficult to clearly assess the situation.
Resistance to this policy is growing. An online petition by more than 100 student representatives calling the government’s “current mass infection plan” “irresponsible and lacking in solidarity” has now received 134,000 signatures. Under the hashtag #WirWerdenLaut (#We’reGettingLoud), a large number of students, teachers, parents and scientists call for “fighting the pandemic by any means necessary” and make a number of demands, such as equipping schools with air filters, free FFP2 masks and a repeal of mandatory attendance.
Politicians and the media have responded with a smear campaign to denounce the petition’s legitimate claims as unscientific or a “fear campaign”.
The petition is an important expression of opposition to profiteering policies before the death of the ruling class. But their demands cannot be implemented by appealing to power. For two years now, these powers have ignored all such pleas, making it clear that they are pursuing policies in the interest of maximizing bank and corporate profits rather than protecting the health and lives of the people.
The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) recently wrote in a statement:
“Instead of appealing to the establishment parties, who make it clear day after day that our lives are worth nothing to them, students and teachers must organize themselves independently into rank-and-file committees for a safe education, take the fight into your own hands and immediately implement the security measures mentioned in the petition.
“School strikes and student demonstrations must be the prelude to a full-scale rebellion of the entire working class against the policy of deliberate mass infection.”
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