SPIEGEL International DER SPIEGEL
27 minutes ago
|Im Browser lesenSPIEGEL InternationalFreitag, 12. November 2021, 21:00 UhrLatest ArticlesA Federation of ImbecilesAnti-Vaxxers and Politicians Push Germany to the BrinkMany in Germany thought the worst of the pandemic was behind them. But the country is now being slammed by the fourth wave – fueled by millions of people who refuse to be vaccinated and political leaders who have abdicated leadership. The situation, say virologists, is grave.|
Nobody really wanted to listen to him in the last few months. He was seen as a killjoy, dragging down the mood. That annoying guy from Berlin’s Charité University Hospital. German politicians also studiously ignored his warnings of a difficult fourth epidemic wave – of a deadly corona autumn. But here we are. Because as it happens, Germany’s best-known virologist, Christian Drosten, in concert with many of his fellow scientists, had been spot on.
Countries with high vaccination rates like Spain and Portugal, says Drosten now, “could definitively leave the pandemic behind them” in spring. But in Germany, because of the many people who still refuse to be vaccinated and due to the sluggish booster campaign, is “still miles away” from that. “As soon as Delta strikes with full force, the hospitals will quickly be overwhelmed,” Drosten warns.
And Delta is currently hitting Germany hard. On Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany’s center for disease control, reported more than 50,000 new infections. A record. The seven-day incidence rate climbed to 249 on Thursday, also a record. The RKI also reported 235 deaths from the virus on Thursday alone.
The hospitals are getting fuller by the day, and 2,800 COVID-19 patients are in intensive care. In response, Charité has cancelled all non-emergency surgeries and many other clinics in the country have done the same. If the trend continues, many of them could soon be overwhelmed.
A federation of imbeciles has ensured that Germany is being hit extremely hard by the fourth wave – much worse than many other European countries.
Irrational political leaders chose not to heed the warnings of scientists. They refused – once again – to prepare for the coming autumn and they now have no plan for what promises to be the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.
A Pandemic of the Feebleminded
Meanwhile, a large population of the feebleminded have continued to ignore the dangers presented by the virus and refuse to be vaccinated. Indeed, the untenable situation in Germany’s intensive care units is primarily due to this group. In its most recent weekly report, the RKI notes that 87 percent of adults under 60 receiving intensive care due to COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.
“The winter will be a societal and medical challenge for Germany, resulting from a lack of preparation, clear rules and rigor,” said Gerald Haug, president of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. The unusually stern tone of his message is justified. Almost no preventative measures were taken, the rules now in place aren’t particularly rigorous, and they are hardly enforced.
The fact that Germany is stumbling into the fall virtually unprepared is one problem. The fact that the country has essentially been without leadership since the September general election is another. The leadership shown – or better, not shown – by the country’s political representatives in recent months borders on malpractice. Hardly anyone is doing what they should be doing in the face of a crisis like this. Angela Merkel is no longer offering guidance. Her likely successor, Olaf Scholz, isn’t yet in office. And even worse, the next coalition will in all likelihood include the Free Democrats (FDP), a party which, when it comes to measures to control the coronavirus, is far more focused on what they don’t want than on what is necessary.
Berlin virologist Christian Drosten
Germany’s federal politicians are pushing off responsibility onto the states. And they are again doing what they always do: Each state comes up with its own strategy. No coordination. Collective negligence.
The consequences are serious. Whereas more than half the population of Israel has received a third dose of vaccine, the rate in Germany is just 4 percent. Despite the fact that it has been known for some time that protection from the initial doses begins to wane after a few months.
Back in summer, immunologists and virologists made it clear to the German government that all elderly people in the country and those with compromised immune systems needed to receive a booster, which can increase protection from the virus by up to 20 times. The Health Ministry, under the leadership of Jens Spahn, calculated that up to 11 million people could be reached by the end of October. It is now November, and just over 3 million have received their booster shots. Just how outgoing Chancellery Chief of Staff Helge Braun intends to achieve his self-proclaimed target of 20 million boosters by the end of the year remains his secret. Preparations for the campaign have suffered for weeks from chaotic agreements and contradictory statements.In intensive care units now, one in three corona patients over 60 was vaccinated before they landed there. The situation is also tense in nursing homes. Outbreaks there are “increasing again,” the RKI wrote in its weekly report. “And they are also hitting vaccinated people.” The assumption is that most of them have not yet received a booster shot.
And it was Health Minister Spahn himself who was the source of much of the confusion. After he – in concert with the RKI – initially recommended booster shots after six months for the elderly, those with weak immune systems and health-care personnel, he suddenly shifted his approach two weeks ago. He did so in response to a discussion with his Israeli counterpart, who has been preaching booster shots for some time. There are now indications that boosters don’t just help at-risk patients, but can also result in a lower virus transmission rate, thus breaking new chains of
So, Spahn also suddenly recommended that everyone get their booster shot.
The consequence has been massive confusion in medical practices across the country. Primary care physicians say their phone lines were suddenly jammed and people mobbed their offices – right at the beginning of the cold and flu season. Last Tuesday, the outraged doctors took an unusual step. In comments to journalists in Berlin, Andreas Gassen, head of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, said that comments from political leaders introduced “chaos” into German medical practices. It was clear that he was talking about Spahn.
Thursday, Gassen and Spahn sought to lower the temperature on their conflict and agreed on a compromise over the phone. They sent a joint letter to doctors in the country asking them to “continue doing all you can to support the vaccination campaign.” Essentially, the message is: Hang in there.
Foresight in Short Supply
The problem, though, is that has become more difficult to organize mass vaccinations. In late June, Spahn and the state health ministers decided to phase out large vaccination centers starting on Sept. 30. In late summer, fewer and fewer people were showing up for their jabs and operating costs were far higher – up to tenfold – than simply having vaccines delivered by primary care physicians. It seemed like the logical next step to clear out of the sports arenas and cafeterias that had been utilized for the vaccination effort.”The closure of the vaccination centers now appears to have been a mistake.”
Karl Lauterbach, SPD health policy expert
Many states, like Saxony-Anhalt and Bavaria, for example, have re-focused their efforts on mobile teams that are better suited to reaching care homes, or smaller “vaccination stations,” as in Bremen. Because demand is now rapidly climbing again, such solutions are no longer sufficient. In Saxony, for example, the roughly 30 mobile teams have reached their limit, as the German Red Cross has complained. Instead of the planned 3,000 vaccinations on Saturday, 4,500 were carried out.
Demand is rising in Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony as well, and both states have ramped up their vaccination teams in response. “The closure of the vaccination centers now appears to have been a mistake,” says Karl Lauterbach, a member of parliament with the Social Democrats (SPD) who is also a trained virologist and the party’s point person on pandemic response. But, he says, when the health ministers decided to close the centers, it wasn’t yet clear that everybody would need a booster, and not just the elderly.
Be that as it may, foresight has been in short supply in Germany since the very beginning of the pandemic, with the country rarely being prepared for what the future might bring. Instead, the country’s political leaders have tended to hectically respond to developments as they happen.