How Germany flattened the curve

By Georg von Graevenitz

CORE links modern economic methods to pressing policy challenges: mounting inequalities, climate change, concerns about power in the workplace, and financial instability. COVID-19 has highlighted inequalities in new ways, demonstrated the risks of ignoring pollution linked to climate change and underscored the role of governments in stabilising economies, coordinating responses and preparing for adversity. The pandemic also highlighted the role of science and trust in protecting society against adversity. Differences in preparedness, often the result of many years of incremental policy developments, have been particularly significant in this fast moving crisis. This post describes how scientists, preparedness and luck combined to simplify crisis management in Germany. But neglect of the exploitation of workers in the meat-processing industry has created unexpected external effects as new lockdowns are now being declared.

Successful prevention undermines the willingness to support tough measures and attracts little praise, this is the paradox of prevention. Former US presidents are no strangers to this paradox as outlined by Gibbs and Duffy in The President’s Club. It has also been a regular feature of a remarkable series of podcasts produced by Korinna Hennig with Professor Christian Drosten, director of the Institute of Virology at the Charite hospital in Berlin. The podcast made Drosten a star and a hate figure in equal measure as Germany has gone through the lockdowns brought about by the Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Christian Drosten is a SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus specialist: he identified the first SARS virus and developed a test for it in 2003. So he was alert to the dangers of the new Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 emerging in Wuhan in December 2019. He coordinated the medical response, warned policy makers in Germany and was present in the media early on. Eventually he settled on the podcast as an effective means of communicating the complexity of the evolving science to a broad public. His interventions in the science and policy community made early high volume testing possible (de – linked text in German).  This has made Drosten a target for those angered by the lockdowns. He is recognised, even when wearing a mask, his contact details are no longer public, significant volumes of hate mail include death threats.

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