Germany is again debating corona measures. For example, head of the health insurance company, Andreas Gassen, is calling for all restrictions to be lifted by October 30th. The date gives anyone who wants enough time to get vaccinated. So now we need a clear statement from politics. “In six weeks we will be Freedom Day too!”, Said the KBV boss of the “Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung”. He is confident that the announcement will quickly result in a vaccination rate of 70 percent.
Health experts from politics and the medical profession promptly face headwinds. Lower Saxony’s health minister Daniela Behrens (SPD) considers an end to the corona measures “still too reckless”. The board of the German Foundation for Patient Protection warns against loosening up too quickly. Head shaking from Karl Lauterbach too. Sars-CoV-2 cannot be defeated with the “crowbar”, the epidemiologist tweeted.
Denmark and Great Britain as role models?
The reason for the KBV requirement are corona strategies of other European countries. Great Britain launched a consistent opening strategy with a “Freedom Day” in mid-July. Initially, the number of cases there decreased, but rose continuously from August onwards. The number of hospital admissions and deaths then rose again – albeit less strongly than last winter. More than 100 deaths a day were regularly reported in August and September – the highest level since March. Around 73 percent of adults in the UK have now received a first dose of vaccine, and around 67 percent are fully vaccinated.
In Denmark, too, is celebrating on a grand scale again. 75 percent of the people there have full vaccination protection. Proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test is no longer required there, not even at major events with tens of thousands of spectators. And in the Netherlands, the distance rules should be dropped from next week. The proof of vaccination still has to be presented there, a mask must be worn on buses and trains, and employees must be asked to work from home. Around 63 percent of the people there are fully vaccinated and 70 percent are given the first dose.
Farewell to lockdown: New strategy in Germany too
And Germany? Relies on 3G in the public sector, and increasingly also on 2G. Wearing distance rules and a mask, quarantine for infected people and close contacts have also remained standard so far. Compared to last autumn, Germany is also currently changing its strategy – albeit more insidiously than Great Britain.
This can be seen most clearly in the RKI’s new tiered concept that is available to the federal states. A lockdown like last winter is therefore not a likely option. It is true that the infection process must continue to be kept under control through measures – “but more with individual measures than with the closure of facilities or restrictions on entire areas of society”, it says in a strategy paper.
The fact that there will probably not be an end to all measures in Germany this autumn has to do with the more contagious Delta variant in conjunction with the comparatively low vaccination rate. In this country, 63 percent of people have complete vaccination protection, 67 percent have received a first dose (as of September 20). Among those over 60 who have an increased risk of severe Covid-19, 17 percent are not yet protected. But there are still large vaccine picks among 18 to 59 year olds. Around 68 percent in this age group are fully vaccinated. In the case of 12 to 17 year olds, only 29 percent are vaccinated.
Vaccination quota instead of a fixed date as a key figure for the end of the measure
Updated models from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) show that Gassen’s call for a “Freedom Day” based on the British model could only work if at least 85 percent of the people are fully vaccinated. Only then could a strong fourth wave with the delta variant be avoided.
“The models from the Robert Koch Institute and others clearly show that if all protective measures were terminated, there would be a significant increase in infections with the known consequences for the sick and the health system – the vaccination rate is still too low to prevent this with a high degree of probability “, Explained Hajo Zeeb, professor of epidemiologist at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research to the Science Media Center (SMC).
The great hope: if almost all people have been vaccinated or have recovered, the so-called endemic phase occurs and the pandemic would then be under control. That means: larger outbreaks and many serious illnesses would then only rarely occur. This autumn, however, this situation will not be achieved in Germany, “because the expected vaccination rates, especially among younger adults, are not yet sufficient,” says the RKI strategy paper.
The strategy of maintaining measures and aiming for the lowest possible number of cases is therefore about buying time. Why could it be worth it? For example, to protect people from serious illness, long-term effects and death as long as the endemic state is not reached. Or in order not to push the healthcare system back to its limits.
During this time, 18 to 59 year olds in particular could be prompted to vaccinate. Meanwhile, the approval of vaccines for those under 12 and drug development could also be pushed ahead and the long-term dangers of Covid-19 such as Long Covid could be better understood. It could also reduce the risk that new variants will emerge that are more transmissible and make the vaccines less effective. Because high case numbers favor that.