For Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and his opponent Marco Buschmann (FDP), this should be a decision document: what have previous coronation measures achieved and what does this mean for the “corona toolkit” for the third fall pandemic?
The 165-page work of the board of government-appointed experts contains clear doubts about the pandemic policy of federal and state governments.
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The main criticism is already at the beginningwhich also contributed to the abandonment of the project by virologist Charité Christian Drosten:
“The Review Committee’s fulfillment of its mandate and claim was significantly hampered by the fact that it was only asked later to evaluate measures based on the Infection Protection Act (IFSG),” criticized at the outset.
Moreover, there is no adequate and rigorous collection of accompanying data which is necessary to enable the evaluation of individual measures. “It should also be noted that the evaluation committee did not have the staff to comprehensively evaluate the issue, nor did it have a sufficiently long evaluation period.”
Concern about the corona wave in the fall
The head of the Berlin Charité, Heyo Kroemer, and Jutta Allmendinger, head of the Berlin Scientific Center for Social Research, were involved in the work. In addition, the well-known public virologist Hendrik Streeck and the epidemiologist Klaus Stöhr were also included.
Presenting their findings, the experts emphasized: The report is not an overall account of Corona policybut it should be used to enable policymakers to make even more informed decisions in the future.
The traffic light hoped the report would settle their dispute over future coronation measures. The ongoing summer wave and concerns about new variants of the crown in the fall raise the question of what should happen in connection with the law on protection against infections expiring on September 23. Länder would like to have another ordinance that would give them more tools, at the moment they can no longer even impose indoor mask requirements.
The traffic light wanted to settle their dispute with the committee
Therefore, the FDP in particular insisted on an evaluation of the measures taken so far, but the report does not provide the expected clarity. It’s more of a “both and”. In conclusion, he agrees with the decisions made by Angela Merkel (CDU) pandemic chancellor. The sooner measures are taken, the better, especially for short but early blockades.
At least the report gives clear clues as to what the new IFSG could look like – and what mistakes to avoid. 18 men and women criticize too little research in Germany and the poorly communicated coronation policy, especially since it was a massive violation of fundamental rights. An overview of the most important results – and what that could mean for next Corona fall.
1. Mask requirement
“The combination of epidemiological evidence and support from animal experiments suggests that wearing masks can be an effective pandemic control tool,” the report highlights. However, a poorly fitted and not tight mask has less or no effect.
“Effectiveness therefore depends on the user,” is not a surprising finding. Everyday masks are definitely less safe than medical masks and FFP2 masks. As there is almost no risk of outside infection, the requirement to use masks in the future should be limited to rooms and places with an increased risk of infection.
To date, there is no general recommendation to wear FFP2 masks, but it is recommended in clinics, homes and other medical facilities.
For politicians, this means that the mask and the mask requirement as an option may very well be part of the “toolbox” in the fall; Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) is insisting on this, as are the federal states.
The report is unclear on the blockages, but it clearly shows that they could be relevant at the very beginning of the pandemic.
“Based on biological and physical probability, there is no doubt that reducing close physical contact tends to reduce the number of infections.” says the report.
Especially at the beginning of a pandemic, it makes sense to limit transmission in the population as much as possible in order to adapt the healthcare system to the impending burden of disease and, if possible, to reduce the epidemic locally.
But the longer the blockage lasts and the fewer people are willing to support the measure, the smaller the effect and the more severe the unintended consequences.
3. Principles G
The sense of the 2G / 3G rules that linked participation in incidents to vaccination or testing during a pandemic is perceived only to a limited extent. According to experts, the effectiveness of these measures is especially high in the first weeks after booster vaccination or recovery. “However, protection against infection drops significantly over time.” A clear consequence of these experiences, also in the perspective of next autumn: The current privileges of the vaccinated persons are being questioned.
Experts recommend: If access restrictions are necessary due to the high number of infections, testing is recommended regardless of the state of vaccination. However, it needs to be explored how well limiting by testing can work in light of the very easy-to-carry variant of Omicron.
4. School closings
The experts were unable to make a precise statement about the effects of the schools’ closure. “Despite biological credibility and numerous studies, the exact impact of school closure in reducing the spread of the coronavirus remains open,” they write in their report. Younger children become infected less frequently and transmit the virus to their families less frequently. However, with the new virus variants, the effect is less pronounced.
The side effects of school closings have been better researched. Screen time lengthened, children gained weight. “Many studies have shown that the proportion of children with mental health problems has increased during school closings,” experts write. In addition, the pandemic had a negative impact on the duration of schooling, learning ability and academic success of students, especially among socially disadvantaged groups of the population.
5. Health system implications and research gaps
Scientists emphasize that in the future, better digitization of infection detection using unified nationwide systems is necessary. Experts explain that canceled operations, delayed diagnoses, and the threat of loneliness in confinement can have dangerous consequences.
The subject of criticism is the research gaps in Germany. For example, “coordinated companion studies were largely overlooked in Germany during the corona pandemic,” experts write.
There was a lack of the concept of “making the upcoming decisions in a pandemic with better data and analysis”. For such purposes, health insurance companies would offer “their huge databases”.
Strict federalism and an extensive General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are also cited as difficult, ultimately inhibiting research: “Federalism and the resulting different state data protection and state hospital regulations, as well as different interpretations of the GDPR make data management and research very difficult in Germany.”
And what does this mean for the new Corona plan?
Länder should feel encouraged to insist on extending the toolkit, they want the indoor mask requirement and the 2G / 3G rule to be an option again, and even in the FDP some MPs say it is older fellow citizens that the FDP is fighting against would not appreciate these measures. because the “precautionary team” continued to dominate here.
But the researchers also explain that there is a “significant need to reform” the controversial IfSG as the legal basis for fighting the pandemic. For example, “identifying an epidemic of national importance” is a legally questionable construct. The delegation of important decision-making powers to the executive is overwhelmingly considered unconstitutional.
Therefore, in the future, intervention thresholds would have to be defined specifically and not nationally, and left to the Länder to determine them by means of statutory regulations and general decrees. On the other hand, it also means that the traffic light coalition under FDP pressure can no longer dictate to states that they are virtually prohibited from taking any action at all.
In any case, Federal Justice Minister Buschmann has now promised a swift agreement in the government on measures to protect against the corona in the fall. He is convinced that a good proposal may appear in the coalition in July – he said. Immediately following the submission of the assessment report, a good deal of agreement was achieved on several points. The inner mask has a very good cost-benefit ratio, according to the report. Therefore, of course, you will have a part in the winter protection concept.