Coronavirus: People are left alone in the face of a rapidly growing virus pandemic – some thoughts out of Germany
by Roman Baudzus
Germany’s Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn (CDU), is a professional politician and a bureaucrat, so it can be assumed that Spahn may have learned a lot from Jean-Claude Juncker, who recently resigned as the EU´s Commission President.
“When things get serious, you have to lie,” Juncker once blatantly said in public when looking back at the euro crisis in the year 2011. It is easy to understand that, in addition to statements like these, it is the adapting behavior patterns of bureaucrats and professional politicians that have led to a steady decline in trust among citiziens in their European institutions over the past few years.
The fact that Jens Spahn seemed to be using the motto of Jean-Claude Juncker on the evening of January 31st was probably noticed by anyone who, based on good observation skills, developed a feeling for making an assessment for himself or herself of when and whether someone is lying.
This impression came to viewers on the evening of a TV program called “Maybrit Illner”, which is broadcast once a week on the Second German Television (ZDF), during which the discussions among the invited guests was the “novel Coronavirus” and its possibly associated dangers and risks for the German population.
According to data officially reported by the National Health Department of China (NHS), it should be noted that the number of novel Coronavirus infections in mainland China had – at this point of time – already exceeded the SARS infections registered in 2002 and 2003 over a period of nine months.
The city of Wuhan and the province of Hubei were already under lockdown enforced by the members of the People’s Liberation Army. At the same time, first cases of infection became known in Germany in the free state of Bavaria, where a Chinese woman infected at least four employees of the Bavarian automotive supplier Webasto with the new corona virus.
The afore mentioned TV program developed into a clash between Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, look for yourself at the tense impression the guy made during the program, and Dr. Johannes Wimmer. Statements and warnings from Dr. Wimmer, according to whom the prospect of an aggravation of the situation in Germany should also be expected and a possibly deteriorating mood among the population, was answered by Spahn with occassional aggressive rejections.
The official narrative of the German federal government at this very early point in time was that only a handful of infection cases with the novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 had been identified in Germany, whereas in the course of a seasonal flu, far more people were statistically at risk from contagion and / or could find death. The Coronavirus would be more harmless than a normal flu. At this time, there was no reason for scaremongering, according to Spahn. And it would be counterproductive.
Spahn also pointed out that the German health care system was well prepared if there was an increase in the number of infections in the country, whereas according to his statement at the time, five of the people suffering from the novel Coronavirus were already doing well and were cheerfully happy.
Not just Dr. Johannes Wimmer, but also other German doctors and virologists see the statements made by Spahn in a contrary way. Spahn was often faced with the illusion that Germany’s hospitals were well prepared for such a crisis.
Many people who work in German hospitals or care facilities have complained for years that there is a lack of personnel and important resources in this area. At this point in time, doctors and nursing staff are completely overwhelmed with their daily amount of patients.
As a result, it cannot be ruled out that, in the event of a pandemic and a massive increase in the number of affected patients, the German health system could collapse due to a lack of staff and permanent austerity measures – if it got really bad like in China.
In the face of a drastically worsening situation in mainland China following this television discussion, the Chinese government, whose officially transmitted infection data cannot be believed for a variety of reasons, Chinese travelers – despite many demands from various associations – were not refused entry to Germany by the German government.
Infection clusters were also growing in other regions of the world, particularly in Thailand, Iran, Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. From the point of view of the German federal government, this also gave no reason to protect the country’s home airports from travelers from the most affected countries by simply banning them from entry.
What was done was to introduce the taking of temperatures at German airports and set up various information boards to alert arriving travelers from all over the world to the dangers associated with the new coronavirus.
Since it had long been established at the time based on the results of a study that people infected with the novel Coronavirus could be asymptomatic for up to 24 days, which means without showing any signs of symptoms or illness, this behavior of the German federal government has already been negligent and over the past few weeks completely incomprehensible.
At the same time, the official narrative, according to which normal influenza was more dangerous and resulted in more fatalities over the course of a season, was maintained by the Federal Government and Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn, with which, from today’s perspective, the German population was misled and misinformed by its own government.
Officials such as Federal Minister of Health, Spahn, constantly downplayed possible dangers and risks, while increasingly critical reporting on the Internet was of course defamed under the category “conspiracy theories”.
From this point of view, the question arose how an interview by health expert Karl Lauterbach from the SPD party ruling the country in a coalition with the CDU with Springer press medium “Die Welt“ from February 3 fitted into this narrative, which was officially maintained by the federal government, in which Lauterbach announced as follows: “We are dealing with a very dangerous pest.”
Now it should be looked at whether the time since the beginning of February has been used by the German government to initiate any preventive or containment measures of SARS-CoV-2 from spreading in the home country in the face of constantly increasing infection numbers in the rest of the world.
In this regard, nothing happened over the entire month of February. Rather, the risk of contagion and the health risk associated with SARS-CoV-2 were still downplayed by the German Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, in public appearances, with the help of Germany´s National Center for Infections and Disease Control, namely the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI).
The Robert Koch-Institute even issued the recommendation not to wear face masks. The question arises whether this recommendation could have something to do with the fact that German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas sent protective clothing, sprayers and disinfectants in abundance to China after the German government made the statement to the Chinese authorities to support them in their struggle against their local epidemic.
The result is that mouth and face masks have been sold out in almost all German pharmacies for some time. Some pharmacies that still have face masks in stock now sell a pack of 100 pieces for up to 90 euros. The German government is countering a buying panic by notifying the public that mouth protection against the virus is of no use.
Let´s see how things are seen in China, where Global Times editor Hu Xijin twittered as follows on March2, 2020:
Suggesting people not wear face mask is seriously misleading. All of the Chinese experts have advised people to wear face masks when in contact with others during time of epidemic and consider it one of the most effective measures. Please heed suggestion of Chinese experts. pic.twitter.com/xUxq11m7Bg
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) March 2, 2020
And this at a time when a great deal of uncertainty was and is even more so spreading among the German population despite the attempt by government officials to calm down everyone, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel would have been expected to turn to the citizenry in terms of addressing the threat that is associated with SARS-CoV-2.
But in this emerging crisis, Merkel can hardly be heard or seen at all. Anyone who has followed the news formats on Germany´s public channels such as the first channel (ARD) over the month of February, especially the daily news broadcast every evening at 8:00 p.m. (Tagesschau), could not help but become aware of it, to become a “victim” of a propaganda and disinformation campaign that seemed to be focused on supressing what´s going on in the rest of the world.
The more the number of infections with SARS-CoV-2 increased abroad – and especially in Asia – the calmer it became in the reporting by Germany´s public media. In some news programs such as ARD Tagesschau, the global development around SARS-CoV-2 was increasingly not even mentioned in one word. Such reporting can be described as ignoring propaganda.
Otherwise, most of the news programs on public channels, for whose reception German citizens have to pay an annual compulsory levy, dedicated its news stories in particular to the regional election in the eastern German state of Thuringia (Thüringen), the interference of the Berlin government with regard to its election result and a supposedly reviving right-wing radicalism in the country.
Once there was talk of the spread of SARS-CoV-2, it was in most cases about an establishment of quarantine stations in the country, in which German citizens brought home from Wuhan were taken in over a period of 14 days. It has also been reported that members of the German Red Cross will volunteer to help those affected in these quarantine facilities.
The fact that a 14-day quarantine period, based on current studies showing that the incubation period can be up to 27 days before infected people start developing disease symptoms, turns out to be too short, is neither mentioned nor addressed in the official planning of the various government authorities.
Furthermore, German airports remained open to travelers from high-risk areas such as China, Iran, South Korea, Thailand, etc. throughout the entire month of February – and this is still the case at present time.
A responsible government would have ensured that risks, threats, and dangers were communicated openly to the citizenry!
In my view, a responsible government would have ensured that risks and dangers were communicated openly to an increasingly insecure population. This would have included the temporary suspension of major events such as Carnival, Bundesliga soccer matches or the like in order to prevent a massive spread of infections. However, none of this has happened so far.
After such decisions have long been made in Italy, France and Switzerland, the German government is still not doing anything. The result is that weekend after weekend tens of thousands of visitors flock to the Bundesliga soccer stadiums to enjoy the matches.
The whole thing gets even more incredible. Despite the significant increase in confirmed novel Coronavirus cases in Germany, the Robert Koch-Institute does still not seem to see any increased risk to the general health of the German population.
“The risk can be assessed as low to moderate,” said RKI Vice President Lars Schaade recently at a press conference in Berlin. The RKI also advises: “Please receive your informatiom from reliable sources.” This statement is intended to insinuate that in the case of a “reliable source” it is solely the Robert Koch-Institute to advise people what to do and what not do.
Are people listening what the RKI is publicly recommending? It does not seem so. And there must be a valid reason why people choose not to listen.
For example the RKI explicitly does not recommend “the use of disinfectants in everyday life, even in this current situation. It is neither recommended to use face masks or any other kind of mouth-nose protection in the general public or in everyday life. ”
It is already known among people that the RKI advises against mouth-nose protection like a mantra. Reason seems to be, as more and more local politicians from several states warn, that there is by far not enough equipment stored at German warehouses for which the health minister of the Western state Nothrine-Westphalia not only openly apologized recently but also said in a TV discussion to feel ashamed that things like this would be possible in a developed nation like Germany.
Hygiene expert Professor Dr. Klaus-Dieter Zastrow contrastingly believes that the hand disinfection among people is now actively talked down by the RKI, what Zastrow finds “extremely dangerous”.
“This is a kind of misinformation that does neither help the population nor the country a yota in containing the local epidemic,” says Zastrow. Mouth and nose protection is the only effective protection against droplet infection. ”
The expert repeatedly criticized the incorrect information being published by the RKI. Since mouth and nose protection as well as hand disinfection were discouraged from the onset, the result is that a spread of the virus is even promoted and there would be no way to contain it.
Over the past few years things like this have unfortunately become quite normal in Germany. The fact that eleven cities in the two Northern Italian provinces of Lombardy and Veneto are now under lockdown by police and military forces does not change the perspective of the German government and the Robert Koch-Institute at all.
Considering the dramatically increasing number of confirmed cases, it is still pretended that an even greater spread of the novel Coronavirus in Germany could be managed by itself, although Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn has meanwhile announced that individual infection chains can no longer be traced back.
From “Coronavirus is more harmless than flu” to “We are at the beginning of a serious epidemic” – Despite the fact, Spahn is still doing nothing while Merkel is nowhere to be seen or heard!
After all, the basic general opinion of the German Federal Minister of Health changed at least once after the events in Northern Italy, since Spahn all of a sudden sees Germany “at the beginning of a Coronavirus epidemic”. It’s hard to believe! In a conference call, he (Spahn) asked the Federal Health Ministers of the 16 German states to “activate their pandemic plans and prepare for their possible entry into force”.
Despite his fears of an epidemic outbreak, Mr. Spahn still does not want to consider closing the German borders to other – and highly affected – European nations or to take into consideration a set up of police controls at the inner German borders of the individual states!
What kind of political “leadership” is that? Mr. Spahn seems to be waiting for the novel Coronavirus to spread throughout Germany, what is happening anyway at the moment. The failure to act by this federal government does not only leave you with the impression of negligence, but almost with the bitter impression of sabotaging the interests of the own population!
And what does the Brussels EU have to say in terms of this development: We exactly got what had to be expected.
Even in the wake of the rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus in Europe, EU officials are vehemently opposed to finally implementing border closures. Rather, in the face of current developments, it seems more important from their perspective to maintain the policy of open borders among the 28 European Union member states.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed infections in Italy has risen to more than 2,300 and a death toll of 52 persons as of today. Please keep in mind that this increase from three to more than 2,300 officially confirmed cases occurred within just a little more than one week. But the EU Health ministers, including Mr. Jens Spahn, still insist on their viewpoint that the Schengen agreement must remain untouched.
In the meantime, 50,000 citizens in Northern Italy still see themselves under lockdown in the two provinces of Lombardy and Veneto. From this point of view, why is it so difficult to close the borders in order to prevent an infiltration from Italy to the neighbouring nations on the continent? !! According to published information many cases being recently confirmed show that the affected German persons had been on vaccation or a business trip to Italy. Or they contracted the novel Coronavirus while being out for Carnival as if no one could have seen this coming.
Infiltration has already happened in Switzerland and Austria, too. The Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conti refuses to consider border closures as well, arguing that such a decision would not prevent the novel Coronavirus spreading to other European nations – what?!
Do you understand this logic? To minimize the spread of the highly infectious Coronavirus, far more drastic measures are likely to be needed soon, when you look at China and what the Chinese government was willing to be doing to bring the R0 or reproductive value of this virus down to one or below that level.
Former Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini, has in the meantime called for the resignation of Conte in response to Conte’s statements, because Conte obviously seems to be “unable to defend Italy and its citizens against a great danger”.
French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari also refuses to close borders between France and Italy – not even temporarily. Germany´s Federal Minister of Health, Spahn, who has so far turned out to be a total failure in view of the crisis – and above all from a German perspective – seems to see things the same way.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides naturally sees things in the light of a common European market. Why wonder about Ms. Kyriakides being worried, when according to her own statement she sees “risks of a disinformation campaign”.
Statements like this are just echoing “concerns” over at the WHO, whose general director Dr Ghebreyesus is still not willing to declare a global pandemic by obviously keeping a close eye on the development of the so called catastrophe bonds formerly issued by the Worldbank. All these side shows seem to be more of importance than the health issues being associated with the Coronavirus outbreak. Or just name it corruption.
The question arises whether it is perhaps not just those people who are in leading political positions who, due to their ideologically coloured glasses, seem to be no longer aware of what is happening in the world. At what point will it become more important to stop a global and highly dangerous pandemic instead of putting one’s own economic ideology of open borders above the well-being of all people on our continent and the rest of the world?
A recent article in The Epoch Times, stated with reference to Deutschlandfunk, (in extracts) as follows:
Virologist criticizes “very slow” government reaction – Coronavirus “at least ten times more dangerous” than flu
The German virologist Alexander Kekulé has criticized the reactions of the European Union authorities regarding the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus. The approch of the responsible authorities would be far too “slow, relaxed, and leisurely”, Kekulé told Deutschlandfunk.
He called for “early” entry controls and “area-wide screenings” to protect populations against the epidemic, but it did not happen with the result that “infiltrations from country to country occured”. Kekulé holds the academic Chair for Medical Microbiology and Virology at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and is Director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the University Hospital Halle.
On the occasion of the outbreak in Northern Italy, he now called for extensive testing of “every case” in Europe that can be associated with “serious respiratory infections”. The virologist had already suggested this to the European Health ministers two weeks ago. “The EU Health ministers did not agree with my suggestion, and now we observe things unfolding in Italy.”
Meanwhile, he also criticized the assessment of Germany´s Health Minister Jens Spahn and his authority in terms of the danger that is associated with the novel Coronavirus. “Above all, it is still the case that his authorities try to pretend as if the novel Coronavirus would be more harmless than flu.”
According to the virologist, the novel Coronavirus is “at least ten times more dangerous than flu” for those who get infected. In contrast to a normal flu, the risk groups being associated with the novel Coronavirus are still unknown.
“It’s a very different situation,” says Kekulé. The novel Coronavirus is not only fatal from the perspective of older or very young people, but for middle-aged people, too. On top there is no existing vaccine for the novel Coronavirus and “that’s why I do not understand why they’ve taken things so lightly thus far”.
If the German population is learning one thing these days, it is that they are alone in the face of a rapidly growing virus pandemic. At least it should be said with chancellor Merkel hiding in the shadow that the Berlin government has managed to set up a “crisis team” that includes the same government figures who have so far reportedly played down the emerging crisis and – for whatever reason – have taken things very lightly. This endangers people’s trust in the authorities.
So, my American fellows, and now look at your “crisis team”: Health Zar Mike Pence, Steven Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow. Jikes! Similar to the German perspective, this is certainly a “dream team” to fight dangerous viruses! An ex-Goldman investment banker and a former cocain addict whose economic assessments were often nothing more but smoke and mirror in the past.
Have you ever wondered what these people actually know about viruses?
Good luck with that and may god be with us!!
Roman Baudzus is running his own economics blog Wirtschaftsfacts on Cashkurs.com and has been contributor to various economic or political websites such as Goldmoney.com, Goldseiten.de or Heise/Telepolis.