German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) and Bavaria's Minister President Markus Söder (CSU) have hinted at maintaining Corona containment measures two days before a fresh meeting between the federal and state governments. On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the state premiers plan to meet yet again to discuss further action on the Corona crisis.
Spahn said on an ARD TV show: "Everyone wants a six-month plan, but there just can't be one in this dynamic, in this pandemic. The only way is 'step by step'. The people in Germany still have some hard and difficult weeks ahead of them. It will still be necessary to keep adjusting the specific measures. I know everyone has a longing for something that will then last for six or twelve months. But that doesn't work. The virus is too dynamic. The situation is changing too much," the CDU politician said.
Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder also made an appearance of showing understanding for the Corona fatigue of many people. "Driving on sight is annoying. But driving on sight is the only thing that really helps. Because the challenger we face - Corona - adheres zero to deadlines we set." (translated from German)
But Söder said he was confident that the federal-state meeting on Wednesday could discuss prospects for easing the lockdown. "How and for how long and to what extent, that still needs to be discussed." He stressed that it was important to send smaller signals, for example in the case of hairdressers. But here, too, Söder urged caution: "Everything sensibly step by step."
Several prime ministers had brought relaxation scenarios into play over the weekend. One demand was that steps for certain infection numbers should be fixed. Federal Health Minister Spahn said concrete relaxation steps would only be possible when "we are well below 50 at 100,000." On Sunday evening, the number of reported new infections within seven days per 100,000 inhabitants was 75.6. Its previous high had been reported on December 22nd at 197.6.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier (CDU) also said the rapid reduction of Corona infection numbers has "absolute priority" over easing the lockdown. Opening strategies are being worked on, he said Sunday evening. Currently, however, the "numbers are still too high to justify concrete steps right now."
Federal Finance Minister Olaf Scholz wants to talk about opening concepts at the regular federal-state consultations on Wednesday. In his view, priority would be given to schools and daycare centers. However, one must "remain cautious" and pay attention to the mutation of the virus.
Vaccine production must be boosted as much as possible, he said. In addition, he said, it is a matter of making plans for how vaccination "will be organized in concrete terms" once more vaccine is available. "By the second quarter at the latest, there will be weeks when we have to do millions of vaccinations." That must be prepared now in detail, he said, so that "quite a lot" of citizens are then vaccinated in the summer.
Despite the posturing and words or reassurance, patience with the politicians' so-far (arguably) failed strategies is running thin with the public. A number of demonstrations have been held in recent days across Germany demanding an end to the hard lockdown, which has so far devastated entire industries and left the country in extreme economic stress.
Image by Josef A. Preiselbauer