German government ends pandemic measures

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Just as a sharp increase in coronavirus cases leads to the highest incidence levels since the start of the pandemic, and the number of severe cases is also increasing, the German government is ending all protective measures. The previous Infection Protection Act, which authorized the remaining protective measures, expired on Saturday. The day before, a new infection protection law was passed in the Bundestag (parliament), which will apply until September 23.

However, the new law only provides so-called basic protection. It is limited to the obligation to wear a mask in EHPADs, hospitals, local and long-distance public transport, as well as an obligation to test in clinics, EHPADs, nurseries and schools. Even in retail stores, masks are no longer mandatory. The removal of the rules for isolating infected people has not been decided, but is still under discussion.

Stricter measures are now only possible in so-called hotspot areas. However, the extent to which a region is considered a hotspot does not depend on fixed values, but must be determined by the relevant state parliament. However, even in sensitive areas, large-scale protective measures are no longer permitted due to the new legislation. Possible regulations are limited to mandatory FFP2 masks in other areas, social distancing of 1.5 meters indoors and 3G (allowing admission of people who have recovered from COVID, are fully vaccinated or with a negative test result) and 2G (people who have recovered from COVID or people who are fully vaccinated) regulations – all completely inadequate measures that have not stopped the current wave.

The individual German states are also free to adopt transitional regulations until April 2 after the Infection Protection Act expires. However, these can only be limited to mandatory mask-wearing, as well as 2G and 3G regulations, but not contact restrictions or limits on the number of participants at large events.

In addition to the Infection Control Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations related to the coronavirus also expire on April 19. Here too, only “basic protection” should apply in the future, consisting of social distancing, wearing a mask and ventilation. This eliminates 3G regulations in the workplace, the provision of two free tests per week for each worker and the requirement for employers to offer work-from-home options to their employees.

Many government officials justified the end of the protections by saying that the pandemic was over. Liberal Democrat (FDP) health expert Christine Aschenberg-Dugnus called it “an important step towards normality”. Federal Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) tweeted: “Soon [there will be] hardly any restrictions in everyday life … because the coronavirus situation is manageable. This removes the justification for many serious measures.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (Social Democratic Party, SPD) was particularly cynical during the debate in the Bundestag, saying: “As an epidemiologist, I wish we could do more for those who are now at risk. But we have to take into account the legal situation: the legal situation is this: we cannot continue to put the whole country under protection to protect a small group of those who do not want to be vaccinated and those who do not want to accept measures .”

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) at a press conference on January 14 (AP Photo/Michael Sohn).

Who is Lauterbach trying to fool? The “legal situation” for ending the measures was created by the coalition government itself, whose first official act in November was to phase out the legal designation of “epidemic emergency”. If Lauterbach and other government officials are now justifying the end of the measures on the grounds that the situation is “manageable” and that only “a small group of those who do not want to be vaccinated” are threatened, it is simply a lie.

The number of unvaccinated is not “small” either, but comprises nearly 20 million. Most of them are not “vaccine reluctant” but simply have not been touched by the completely inadequate vaccination campaign. The unvaccinated also include millions of children under the age of five, for whom there is still no official vaccination option.

Moreover, it is well known that vaccination, important as it is, only reduces the likelihood of serious or fatal disease, but does not always prevent it. However, as the virus works to infect masses of people, there will always be a large number of people who will suffer serious illness or die, even if the overall probability is lower.

Letting the virus run free also leads to the emergence of vaccine-resistant mutations that can evade vaccine protection. The emergence of the Omicron variant and its BA.2 sub-variant illustrates this. The government is fully aware of the deadly consequences of its policy. It will be “the case that in many places there will be precisely this overload [of hospitals]predicted Lauterbach in his speech to the Bundestag.

The infection figures are already reaching new records every day. According to data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Friday, 297,845 people were newly infected with the virus in one day. That’s 45,000 more daily cases than a week ago. The nationwide incidence rate increased by 55% from the previous day and now stands at 1,706 per 100,000 population. Both are the highest values ​​since the start of the pandemic. Since the start of last week alone, 1.1 million new infections have already been recorded.

Across the country, the pandemic is unleashed. A total of 390 out of 411 districts have an incidence rate above 1000. In 158 districts the incidence level is above 2000 and in eight it is even above 3000. However, since the Testing capacities and health services are at their limit in many places and contacts are virtually untraceable, one must assume a high number of unregistered cases.

The number of serious outcomes is also increasing sharply. On Friday alone, 2,097 people were hospitalized. The adjusted incidence rate of hospitalizations is currently close to 15 per 100,000, which corresponds to 12,000 hospitalizations per week. Some 294 people had to be newly admitted to intensive care in one day, which means that currently around 2,300 coronavirus patients are being treated in intensive care. The national average for the proportion of free intensive care beds is already around the 10% mark, which is considered the threshold for the response capacity of hospitals.

The death toll is particularly alarming. Between 200 and 300 people die every day. On Thursday alone there were 278 deaths and on Friday 226. Contrary to the government’s narrative, it is not just the elderly who are affected. Since the start of the pandemic, 57 children and young people aged 0 to 19 have died. Currently, at least one child is added to the death list every week. For reasons of confidentiality, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) does not disclose more specific details.

The spread of the virus in schools continues to fuel infection rates among children and adolescents. The age groups 5-14 and 15-35 have by far the highest incidence rates, at 3,004 and 2,475, respectively. Over the past four weeks, 649 outbreaks have been reported in kindergartens. There have also been 426 outbreaks in schools over the past four weeks. And in both areas, follow-up reports for the past two weeks are still pending.

The high number of outbreaks in medical care facilities, nursing homes and nursing homes is particularly deadly. There were 510 outbreaks in nursing homes and retirement homes last week, and 196 in medical care facilities, 23 more than the previous week. The current increase in hospitalizations, along with the spread of Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant — the most dangerous COVID variant to date, according to the study — will continue to push the death toll up. In total, more than 126,000 people have already died from COVID-19 in Germany.

The vast majority of the population regards the end of the measures as sheer madness and rejects this path. According to a Civey poll for The Spiegel, 65% of the population is in favor of extending coronavirus measures beyond March 20. 60% are in favor of a general obligation to vaccinate. But the ruling class is taking the policy of herd immunity to the extreme. There are objective reasons for this.

The first factor that runs through all of the pandemic policies of the ruling class is the maxim “profits before lives”. Especially in view of the growing economic crisis and the growing opposition of the working class, nothing must interrupt production – and therefore the maximization of capitalist profit. For the ruling class, the scientifically necessary measures to contain the pandemic – in the first place, the closure of schools and non-essential businesses – are unacceptable.

Another factor behind the murderous policy of herd immunity is the conduct of war. The German government is using Russia’s attack on Ukraine, systematically provoked by NATO, to advance its own rearmament and war plans. Germany is increasingly playing a leading role in NATO’s war offensive against Russia and is transporting more and more soldiers and war material to Eastern Europe. On Wednesday, the cabinet approved the financing of the “special assets of the Bundeswehr”, amounting to 100 billion euros, the largest rearmament campaign since Hitler.

War and rearmament go hand in hand with capitulation to the pandemic. Wolfgang Ischinger, the former head of the Munich Security Conference, summed this up in his opening speech at this year’s rally by saying, “We cannot just postpone global politics. Safety requirements do not respect social distancing rules.

The war offensive and official anti-pandemic policies will continue to fuel social and political opposition among workers and youth. This requires a clear anti-capitalist perspective. The fight against the pandemic, like the fight against war and poverty, requires the mobilization of the international working class on the basis of a socialist program.

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