“We must understand that we have to live with the virus as long as there are no medicines and no vaccines,”Chancellor Angela Merkel said.
In late February, as the Covid-19 crisis was beginning to take a heavy toll on Italy, Germany stood out as the country with the second-largest coronavirus outbreak in Europe. As Germany’s infection cases rose steadily--peculiarly--the death toll did not. Over the course of the Covid-19 crisis, Germany has functioned as a guinea pig for prevention practices and come out on top. Now, as talk begins of loosening lockdown restrictions, it will also serve as the guinea pig for reconstruction practices.
Germany’s strong fight against the coronavirus can be attributed to several key factors. Firstly, Chancellor Angela Merkel took action against the virus in the early stages of its spread. Like other European countries such as Italy, France, and Spain, this began with small steps, like limiting group gatherings, closing schools, and urging people who had been to high-risk areas to self-quarantine for 14 days. However, unlike other countries, Germany was simultaneously conducting a large-scale process of testing individuals to identify coronavirus clusters. When the national lockdown was declared on March 23, the German government already had an understanding of where their high-risk and potential high-risk areas were because of the widespread testing.
Germany’s fight against the coronavirus was also aided greatly by medical foresight. Germany has one of the highest numbers of acute care hospital beds in Europe, with six beds per 1,000 citizens, according to The Washington Post. For comparison, Italy has only 2.6 beds per 1,000 citizens and the US has 2.4. Germany has around 28,000 intensive care beds, the majority of which are equipped with ventilators. As of April 17, Germany has had 137,698 reported cases of coronavirus and only 4,052 deaths.
On April 15, amidst falling infection rates and a flattening curve, Angela Merkel announced plans of loosening Germany’s lockdown measures. This will begin with small shops, such as bookstores and car repair shops, opening as soon as next week, and schools reopening from May 4. To ensure maximum safety, the German government will carefully analyze infection numbers every two weeks to prevent a resurgence of Covid-19, reinstating lockdown measures if necessary.
“If we now allow more public life in small steps,” Merkel said in a conference, “then it is very important that we can trace infection chains even better. That must be our aim: to trace every infection chain.”
Social distancing measures will remain in place until further notice, and citizens are urged to wear face masks in public. Until Aug. 31, restaurants and bars will remain closed and large-scale gatherings and public events will be banned.
The road back to normalcy will be slow and uncertain. It is uncharted territory for most EU countries, and as the largest economy in Europe, the results will stand as an example for other countries to follow, or as a warning.
“We must understand that we have to live with the virus as long as there are no medicines and no vaccines,” Merkel said.
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