Europe biggest newspaper, Germany’s Das Bild, has said the Covid-19 lockdown was a ‘huge mistake’.
Critics featured in the newspaper feature said that it was important during a public crisis that people had the right to continue “warning, doubting and arguing” especially when fundamental rights of citizens were being suppressed.
Prof. Klaus Püschel, a pathologist and head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Hamburg University Hospital, argued that “in the end, COVID-19 is a viral disease like the flu, which in most cases is harmless and is only fatal in exceptional cases.”
“It is important to look at the aftermath of the epidemic to see if COVID-19 really was the cause of death,” he observed. “Of the approximately 180 deceased with coronavirus that we have now examined, all suffered from severe pre-existing conditions and were not children or adolescents. The COVID-19 infection was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Prof. Stefan Homburg of the University of Hanover, who was a former adviser to the federal government, also argues that official figures from Germany showed the lockdown was not justified.
“In Italy, the coronavirus epidemic was worse than a flu epidemic, in Germany it was less severe,” Homburg said. “With the lockdown, the federal and state governments have made a huge mistake.” He called for the lockdown to be released immediately, saying “Empty soccer stadiums and half-empty restaurants are of no use to anyone.”
In relation to the how the lockdown decision was made, Professor Hans-Jürgen Papier, former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, said the debate was too limited and state interventions went too far. “The balance was between the protection of life and health on the one hand and the protection of constitutional goods on the other,” he said. In principle, “there should have been a broader and more detailed parliamentary and public debate. To this end, the legal goods to be weighed up were too important and the consequences and interventions too great.”
Julian Nida-Rümelin, Germany’s former Minister of Culture, said statistics were being used to create fear: “With COVID-19, new, huge numbers appear every day, which make us frightened and perplexed,” he said. “These figures must be understood by asking: how many people die every day in Germany in total? How many have heart attacks? How many from cancer? How many from COVID-19? Little is being done to this effect.”
Other commentators pointed to the Swedish model of dealing with the pandemic, where death rates to not seem to have exceeded other European countries but the economy has not been similarly curtailed by a major restrictions.
Der Spiegel also reports that Germany is deeply divided over the lifting of the lockdown. Public demonstrations against the restrictions are being held by left and right, the paper says with “A divide created by the coronavirus runs through the entire country”.
Both sides seem to have deeply entrenched views:
“I don’t believe that the continued lockdown is proportionate to what it yields,” says Bochum-based pneumologist Santiago Ewig, the chief physician at the Ruhr Thoracic Center, a hospital in the city. He sees “great collateral damage with unforeseeable consequences” in our society, “economic, cultural, psychological and in the care of patients being treated for things other than the coronavirus.” He says that COVID-19, in its aggressive form, is certainly a serious threat, “but we should classify it as one of many threats that we will have to learn to deal with. The government should suspend all the measures it has taken and return to normal.”
It’s an idea that Cologne-based lung specialist Elmar Storck further elucidates. “Let people live as social beings again and focus on high-risk patients, better protecting residents in senior homes, but at the same time let them receive visitors.” He says it’s inhuman to cut families apart from each other.
Psychiatrists also believe that many people are unable to cope with the conditions that have been imposed, with the threatened or actual loss of a job, with serious economic problems and with loneliness. Furthermore, they say, people are avoiding making the trip to the doctor’s office, thus leaving their problems unaddressed.
Germany’s most prominent and likely most influential virologist, Christian Drosten, insists that he won’t stop issuing warnings, saying he wants to prevent the country from ruining the progress that has been made by the social distancing rules. His colleague Melanie Brinkmann at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research is likewise worried about the potential consequences of the more casual approach to the coronavirus that many in Germany are now adopting. “The government has sent the wrong message with the loosening of measures,” Brinkmann says. She fears that people “are no longer taking the virus as seriously.”