Pandemic management: expert council expresses sharp criticism

Mith her announcement that in extreme emergencies and to maintain the critical infrastructure, as an exception, symptom-free infected people would also be allowed to work, Berlin’s Governing Mayor Franziska Giffey (SPD) caused a lot of confusion at the weekend. Because even Berlin is not threatened by a threat to the water and electricity supply, and even in the Charité the sick leave among doctors and nurses is at a level that does not seriously endanger patient care. Anyone who has tested positive cannot come to work in the clinic. According to its own statements, the Charité does not want to change anything about that.

Heike Schmoll

Political correspondent in Berlin, responsible for “Bildungswelten”.

Giffey’s statements for the worst-case scenario, which may never happen, are just one example of what the Expert Council sharply criticized in its fifth statement published on Sunday evening: errant communication. “A lack of consistency between available information, its assessment and the resulting recommendations contributes to the uncertainty of the population” and “undermines trust in government action,” it says. Diplomatically cloaked, the expert council accuses the federal government of acting chaotically, calls for alignment with available knowledge, laments the lack of data again and suggests that the central data, statistics and key figures be translated into a target group-oriented, understandable form.

He also recommends distributing the communicative content on multiple channels, including social networks. Contradictory statements should be avoided – the health authorities are specifically mentioned, which a week ago in Berlin caused shambles among parents and schools by specifying different test strategies than those of the health administration that were still valid at the time. In a memorable Senate press conference, the responsible senators for health and schools had to point out that the test strategy could not have been changed so quickly. And apparently nobody could or wanted to prevent the medical officers from going it alone.

“Constitutionally Unacceptable”

The rapid change and insufficiently justified reversal of previous procedures are increasingly eroding the trust of the population. The Expert Council therefore comes to the unflattering conclusion that there is no institution in Germany that successfully practices “risk and health communication” that follows the principles mentioned. The scientists are realistic enough to know that uniform opinions are excluded in a pluralistic society, but “in the context of this diversity, there must be technically sound and evidence-based health communication that is developed and implemented by multidisciplinary expertise”. For this purpose, not only the available medical information has to be brought together, but also relevant studies have to be evaluated and behavior-relevant aspects such as “acceptance of measures”, willingness to be vaccinated, and trust have to be regularly observed and evaluated.

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