It is not that warnings were missing or that the dynamics of the corona pandemic were “really unpredictable”, as Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) maintained at the end of October. While Germany was enjoying the warm late summer at the beginning of September, the nationwide incidence had already risen to 75 by the end of the vacation period and politics was concerned with election campaigns, the virologist Christian Drosten said bluntly on Deutschlandfunk: “We cannot go into autumn with this vaccination quota. That is absolutely not enough.”
The utilization of the intensive care units, the main driver in the debate about new corona measures, was also foreseeable. Drosten presented corresponding model calculations by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). “We will need a ten percent reduction in contact towards the beginning of October and another thirty percent reduction in contact towards the beginning of November, given the expected situation in the hospitals,” he explained. And Drosten warned: The RKI calculations would still underestimate the effects of the delta variant on infection rates and hospital admissions.
But instead of reducing the number of contacts, there was further relaxation. In Bavaria, for example, Prime Minister Markus Söder had the mask requirement in schools lifted after the summer holidays (it has now been reintroduced). And FC Bayern was allowed to play in front of a sold out house at the end of October. And initially not according to the 2-G rule, as in some other stages, but still according to the 3-G standard, which also allows unvaccinated people if they have been tested.
Now that the emergency brake is inevitable, the federal states and the federal government are shifting responsibility across the party lines. CSU general secretary Markus Blume blasphemed that the “caution team” headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and Söder had been replaced by the “don’t know” team of the traffic light parties.
Söder spoke of “Freedom Day” at the beginning of October
However, Merkel’s health minister Jens Spahn (CDU), like the FDP, the Greens and the SPD, was in favor of allowing the “epidemic situation of national importance” to expire. According to the Infection Protection Act, it enabled far-reaching measures to combat corona – from general contact restrictions to the nationwide closure of shops, restaurants and schools. Söder had also spoken of a kind of “Freedom Day” in mid-October.
The main concern of the Liberals was to transfer the competence for strong interventions in civil liberties back to the Bundestag. Fractional manager Marco Buschmann also pointed out that the Bavarian Administrative Court had conceded Söders curfew from March. Further such judgments are imminent. Politicians must therefore assume that in view of the vaccination quota of more than two thirds of the population, such far-reaching restrictions are no longer proportionate. Rising incidences did nothing to change this argument.
However, on October 27th, Buschmann stated that there was no longer any threat of “systemic overloading of the public health system”, which at least for parts of Germany was hardly tenable back then. Party deputy Wolfgang Kubicki argued similarly im Spiegel and warned that “unvaccinated people should not be treated worse”. Party leader Christian Lindner moved in the “topics of the day” the effectiveness of exit restrictions in doubt, statements that he later cleared as “misleading”.
At the end of October, after a meeting of the CSU board, Söder had announced a new “Bavaria narrative”: the “traffic light north” against the “free south”, which of course is only embodied by Bavaria. In Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann is ruled by a traffic light man. Bavaria as a model state in which everything is going much better than in the rest of the republic. Of course, that should have also applied to the corona policy.
The “free south” could have shown the “traffic light north” how to do it
Nobody can blame the state government under Söder for the high incidences in Bavaria, they are partly related to the commuter traffic in the border areas with the Czech Republic and Austria; Countries in which there are far higher values. However, the liberals and their traffic light partners have not deprived the states of the opportunity to act, as can be seen when looking at Saxony’s Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer (CDU), whose state is struggling with the worst corona situation.
Nobody has prevented the “free South” from taking countermeasures on its own at an early stage. Söder could have carried out the booster vaccinations weeks ago on his own and thus showed the “traffic light north” how to do it. But he preferred to call for nationwide uniform regulations – knowing full well that drastic regulations would also meet with little approval in the Free State.
Even the 2-G rule, which Söder wants to enforce across Germany and now introduce “for almost everything” in Bavaria, he could have made the new standard weeks ago. And at the same time being able to say openly what his Lower Saxony counterpart Stephan Weil (SPD) said on Monday evening at “Hart aber fair”: “That actually amounts to a lockdown for unvaccinated people.”