Germany and South Korea have managed the COVID-19 crisis well and are now opening up their economies. Reopening the economy can be tricky and things definitely won’t go back to normal. Germany is making a slow and cautious approach to opening businesses. We can look at cues from Germany in order to assess how and when to reopen the economy. This will help countries chart a future course for their economies in these trying times.
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High level of compliance
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought economies to a halt since countries went into lockdown. All this is being done in order to flatten the infection curve of the Novel Coronavirus. While successful, these are only short-term measures and soon countries will have to open up.
One of the biggest advantages that Germany has on its side is the high level of compliance it has. Government directives issued during these times are religiously followed by the people. The people of Germany understand the gravity of the situation and work together. Even Children going to school abide by norms such as social distancing despite being young and naïve. The evidence of this has been found in schools like The Petri primary school which in Dortmund of Western Germany. Schools have started reopening for some children since the crisis is at a manageable level. Strict guidelines, however, are prevalent across the country.
The Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel has informed the public that they could afford to be a little courageous. However, she has also declared that they need to take great care so that the situation does not become worse. Germany is at an advantageous position where they can start opening up and they don’t wish to lose that.
Even a single unattended case can lead to a resurgence of the virus. This is evident in South Korea where a single man who had COVID-19 ended up infecting over a dozen people. He visited three nightclubs over the weekend and this happened. Angela Merkel said that they may have surpassed the first wave of COVID-19 but it is still not over. COVID-19 is here to stay and people need to cooperate in order to combat it.
Social interactions and contact will be limited until June 5. People can, however, venture out and meet people of their own households as well as other households. People need to maintain social distancing and stay 1.5 meters apart from each other. Everyone needs to wear masks in public as a mandatory requirement.
Opening up the Economy
All shops can now open but they have to comply with strict hygiene norms. Bundesliga, which is Germany’s premier football league will start on 16th May. There will be no spectators and everyone must abide by strict hygiene directives. It will be the first major European league to resume its matches since the Coronavirus outbreak. Germany is making all efforts to open up business while ensuring that strict guidelines are in place. Germany has the capacity to perform 964,000 Coronavirus tests per week. However, only a third of this capacity has been used in the past week.
Even public places like Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt art museum are now open to the public with safety riders. The fact that the daily advent of new cases is in the hundreds has prompted such bold moves. While this is not an ideal number, Germany has the infrastructure to cope with these numbers. With its Robust healthcare system and rapid diagnosis, Germany has a significant edge over other countries. Couple that with stringent contact tracing and isolation, and you have a robust anti-COVID system in place.
The Success Story
Europe has been badly hit by the COVID-19 crisis. Countries like Italy and Spain have seen a large number of cases and high mortality rates. In the midst of all this gloom, Germany’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis is seen as a success story. Germany’s mortality rates have been much lower than in other European countries. Its robust healthcare system was able to handle all the local cases of COVID-19. In fact, it even accepted patients from other countries whose healthcare system is overloaded. Germany has a vast and effective diagnostics industry and hence it started with mass testing much earlier than other countries. This gave Germany a much-needed head start in fighting the Coronavirus.
The Robert Koch Institute which is Germany’s disease control agency affirmed that Germany’s Coronavirus reproduction rate was at 0.65. This is a crucial metric that is in use to assess the spread of the Coronavirus. This means that 100 infected people will infect only 65 more people further.
Germany’s decentralized governance is another added advantage. Imposition and easing of restrictions can be done at a local level which results in a faster response. National coordination and high compliance rates further add to Germany’s advantage. Bigger cities will move much slower with the easing than rural areas. There is a benchmark of 50 cases per 100,000 people. If cases in any region cross this threshold, restrictions will be immediately clamped down. All easing of norms and social distancing is then suspended in this region.
Peter Drobac’s Opinion
Dr Peter Drobac is a prominent global health expert who has been tracking the unfolding in Germany. He is from the Oxford Saïd Business School. He is of the opinion that a graded exit from the strict measures is a prudent decision. Drobac believes that Germany’s crisis is only resolvable after the looming health crisis has been dealt with. He believes that the only way this can be done if Germany flattens the curve and brings new cases to a manageable level. Germany must also implement robust contact tracing and ensure rapid testing.
Germany has handled the COVID-19 crisis well. All of its states are in a position to relax the formerly imposed restrictions. Germany’s steps can be emulated in other countries that are looking to open up their economies. A cautious and calculated approach based on learnings from Germany will benefit every nation.