There was not often agreement between the federal and state levels in this pandemic, but on Friday noon they agreed on the drama of the situation. “We have very difficult weeks ahead of us,” said Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). Bavaria’s head of department Klaus Holetschek (CSU), as chairman of the conference of health ministers something like the class representative of the state ministers, called the situation “sometimes dramatic, worrying and anything but all-clear”. The situation in many hospitals is serious and is getting worse. Germany, so that was the analysis at the meeting of health ministers in Lindau on Lake Constance, is in the middle of the fourth corona wave.
So the question is: how do you get out of there?
As a key decision, the ministers announced that in future booster vaccinations should be offered to all people whose vaccination protection is six months or older. Spahn had agreed on this the day before with the doctors’ representatives, but it was an important political signal that was now to be heard in this group as well. An incidence of 169.9 and more than 37,000 new infections within 24 hours, which the Robert Koch Institute reported on Friday morning, seemed to limit the scope for interpretation for the participants – especially since the booster vaccinations in Israel were great successes in the fight against a flare-up Pandemic. The data from Israel were only recently available, said Spahn, but now we know that the boosters could make a decisive difference.
Many people also considered a mandatory corona vaccination to be crucial in the fight against the pandemic – in a survey by Infratest dimap, more than half of the respondents were in favor of a general vaccination for the first time. The approval of compulsory vaccination for members of certain professional groups, such as nurses, is even higher: 74 percent think that makes sense. However, the health ministers did not come to terms with this. There is undoubtedly a “moral duty” to get vaccinated, for example when caring for older people, said Spahn. However, he is concerned that in the event of compulsory vaccination, many unvaccinated nurses will no longer appear on duty – this would further exacerbate the nursing emergency. The mood in the country is tense, said Spahn. Care must be taken that tension does not become a division.
Instead of a mandatory vaccination, an agreement was reached in Lindau on an extended test obligation: staff and visitors to care facilities should be tested regularly and compulsorily. What exactly “regularly” means remains open at first: he thinks daily testing would be good, said Spahn. In order to make nursing jobs more attractive and to relax the personnel situation, there should also be bonuses or tax breaks for everyone who looks after Covid-19 patients, said State Minister Holetschek. Everything must be done to improve the situation in nursing. The number of intensive care beds also fell last year because the sickness rate among the staff is high and many are turning their backs on their jobs – which is generally viewed as a result of constant overload.
Of course, critical tones were mixed in with the harmony: Holetschek formulated not without ulterior motives that one was “in the middle of an emergency” – the end of the so-called epidemic emergency, which the traffic light parties SPD, Greens and FDP even before the start of a joint government have decided, he and many other country representatives don’t like it at all. However, the idea of abolishing this state of emergency was the first to come from Minister Spahn, who was still in office. Despite the increasing numbers, the traffic light wants to hold on to the abolition, was heard in Berlin – the changes to the Infection Protection Act are to be decided in the Bundestag on November 18.
Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU) finds the efforts too lame overall, and he called for a quick federal-state summit in the coming week. “If we take too much time now, it will end like last year,” said Kretschmer, “with a lockdown.”