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Germany: Rise in COVID-19 cases prompts concern

August 7, 2020

A recent survey finds most Germans agree with mandatory COVID-19 tests for travelers coming into the country from high-risk areas. They also want stricter penalties for those who do not wear masks where required.

People in face masks standing outside a store
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/W. Steinberg

From Saturday onward, anybody coming into Germany — by plane, train or car — from a country with high rates of COVID-19 will have to take a test. The move by the German government comes as the number of cases in the country itself rises.

According to the most recent Deutschlandtrend survey conducted for the public broadcaster ARD, 93% of the German population is in favor of the measure.

Read more: Travelers to Germany to do mandatory coronavirus test — or pay up to €25,000

However, the fact that the state will also cover the cost of the tests is less popular. While 57% of under-40s, the age group that travels the most, favors compulsory but free tests, the majority of older people do not.

Infografik Deutschland Trend Corona Tests für Reiserückkehrer EN

Fear of infection

Twenty-eight percent of the people polled were either "concerned" or "very concerned" that they could become infected and/or spread the virus to others. The same percentage of people said that they would like the state to introduce stricter measures to curb the pandemic.

The majority of those polled, however, said that they believed that the current restrictions were adequate. Many believed all the same that there was not enough monitoring to ensure that people complied with the regulations. They said that there should be tougher penalties for people who did not comply with physical distancing or mask-wearing rules.

Last Saturday in Berlin, some 20,000 people flouted these regulations to demonstrate against the government and the restrictions that it has put in place to curb COVID-19 in Germany. The demonstrators included coronavirus deniers, anti-vaxxers, people who believe in conspiracy theories, as well as supporters of far-right ideologies.

But despite this conspicuous display of resistance, only 11% of the population thinks that the restrictions are exaggerated, according to the ARD survey.

Back to school

The next major challenge that authorities face is the new school year, which begins when summer holidays end. Classes have already begun again in the states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Hamburg, and schools will reopen in Berlin, Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and the country's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, next week.

Read more: Germany requires coronavirus tests for arrivals — what you need to know

Sixty percent of people generally and 58% of people with school-age children are concerned that the rules in place as schools reopen are inadequate. Schools are not being compelled to introduce physical distancing in classrooms or teach smaller groups. Apparently, there would not be enough teachers if such rules were introduced.

Back to school in Germany

Most parents want their children to go back to the classroom. But many would prefer a combination of homeschooling, as seen during the months of lockdown, and classroom teaching with teachers. Among other things, they perhaps hope that this would enable smaller groups.

Fears about the economy

People in Germany continue to worry about the economic impact of the pandemic. As in June, six out of 10 people surveyed described the economic situation in the country as "less good" or even "bad." Most were worried about the future and that the situation could further deteriorate.

However, only one in four of those eligible to vote were worried about their own economic situation and only a fifth of those with jobs were worried about losing them. Nonetheless, this was more than in spring.

One decisive factor that might perhaps help to improve the economic situation will be the development of an effective vaccine. Seventy-four percent of people surveyed said that they would "definitely" or "probably" be vaccinated against COVID-19 if possible. During the swine flu outbreak in 2009, only 34% of people surveyed said that they would be willing to be vaccinated against it.

Coronavirus fears

If Sunday were election day…

As uncertain as the outlook is with regard to the pandemic and the economy, the majority of Germans continue to trust their government. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed gave Berlin a positive mark — the same record number as in early May. Seventy-one percent were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Chancellor Angela Merkel's performance. By contrast, only 60% were satisfied with Health Minister Jens Spahn from Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and only 57% with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats (SPD), the junior coalition partner. 

If Sunday were an election day

If an election were to be held on Sunday, only the conservative CDU/CSU bloc, which polled at 38%, up 1 percentage point from the last survey, would benefit from these popularity ratings. The SPD would win only 15% of the vote, down 1 percentage point from the last poll. The Greens would win 18%, which is also a decrease. The populist AfD would win 11%, up 1 percentage point from in the last poll. The business-friendly FDP is also up 1 percentage point to 6%. The Left Party's popularity has not changed at 7%.