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Bad medicine?

Thurau Jens Kommentarbild App
Jens Thurau
May 7, 2020

Pressure from businesses and state governments worked. Germany will lift restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus. Individuals must now ensure that the situation does not go terribly wrong, DW's Jens Thurau writes.

Berlin: Doctor with coronavirus test
Image: Getty Images/S. Gallup

Life is getting back to "normal" in Germany. Stores are reopening, as are schools and kindergartens. There will soon be soccer on TV, though it will be played in stadiums without fans. Biergartens will open up in summer. And people will soon be able to go on domestic holiday — even staying in hotels if they want to.

Virologists have cautiously given their OK. They had little choice, though many worry that Germany could face a second wave of infections if lock-ins are lifted too fast. However, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to decrease, arguments that there is no valid argument for maintaining the strict restrictions put in place to flatten the curve are increasing.

Jens Thurau
DW's Jens ThurauImage: DW

It's not that simple. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is just one of many who is not convinced that the time has come for lifting the restrictions. She has been forced to look on almost helplessly as representatives of Germany's different states have breezily announced that they are lifting restrictions, opening up biergartens in Bavaria for example or hotels in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Though she has passed on responsibility to state governments, she also says state authorities will have to rapidly reintroduce measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 in the event of an increase in infections.

Read more: German ministers aim to reopen restaurants within two weeks

Some commentators say Merkel treats Germans like children. Though fellow world leaders appreciate the way that she has handled the pandemic, domestically she has lost some of the backing that she accumulated in the first weeks of the outbreak. This is why she has been forced to give her support to attempts to reopen society and the economy while advising caution, saying that people should maintain physical distance and wear masks.

Read more: 3.2 million more Americans file for unemployment in pandemic

The real test

At the start, people were generally willing to follow when the state imposed restrictive measures to contain the virus. Now, it will be up to individuals to prevent further spread.

The situation is volatile and can change from day to day. Whereas many public health specialists stated that face masks were unnecessary at the beginning of the outbreak, masks are now everywhere to be seen. Many people have been astounded to realize that Germany's 16 states have so much power. The contrast between the chancellor's cautious approach and the speed with which the country is opening up, under pressure from state governments, is vast. The fact that footballers will soon play again, despite the presence of a highly contagious virus, is almost disgraceful.

Read more: COVID-19 death rate sinking? Data reveals a complex reality

The real test is about to begin. So far, most residents have been spared the devastating effects of COVID-19. Now, they will have to continue to maintain physical distance, wear masks and look out for people who could become victims.

Read more: Turkey's public health system faces coronavirus pandemic

Managing this will only be possible if people do not believe that the scare is over and life can simply return to how it was before the pandemic: The virus is not going away anytime soon.

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Thurau Jens Kommentarbild App
Jens Thurau Jens Thurau is a senior political correspondent covering Germany's environment and climate policies.@JensThurau
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