Is the relaxation debate coming too soon??

Questions and answers Does the loosening debate come too soon?

A sign at the entrance of a restaurant reads 2G rule. Photo: Martin Schutt/dpa-central picture/dpa

Berlin – In the debate about possible relaxations of corona measures in Germany, experts from various disciplines advise caution and prudent action. Why are other countries further, what can still threaten with us? In addition questions and answers.

How do scientists evaluate the loosening debate??

Some can take a positive view of the discussion, but also see risks. "Planning an exit strategy to have it ready later is good and reasonable. But the policy should not rush", says virologist Friedemann Weber of Giessen University. "When you prepare such plans, you must always make it clear to people that there could still be unforeseeable developments that delay implementation."

Criticism comes from Max Geraedts, who heads the Institute for Health Services Research and Clinical Epidemiology at the Philipps University in Marburg. The discussion sends "much too early the message that the pandemic is already over. "Instead, in the coming weeks we will see in many places that staff in all sectors are either isolated or quarantined, so that there are restrictions on everyday life."

How to justify skepticism?

First and foremost, experts point to the comparatively large vaccination gap in Germany – especially among people aged 60 and older. "And there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the omicron variant. Therefore I advise caution", says Weber.

The infectiologist Jana Schroeder (Mathias-Spital Foundation, Rheine) also argues with the current situation: "We are facing a further increase in the wave of infections. Depending on further developments, further restrictions might even make sense for the time being", she informs on request. "We have to have some humility about all the things we don’t know about Covid-19 yet, especially through Omikron." It referred, for example, to Long Covid, consequences of possible repeated infections and the limited treatment options.

Could still threaten anoverload of the health system?

Yes, experts believe this is possible. Schroeder refers to the still about three million unvaccinated seniors who could fall seriously ill. "Ultimately, this is a problem for all of us, because if the health care system is overburdened, the infarction or stroke, which can affect anyone, can also be less well cared for." Not only inpatient care but also outpatient care can become overburdened, Schroeder warns – due to too many concurrent patients or large staff absences.

So far, Omikron is particularly rampant among children and adolescents aged 5 to 14 and much less so among people aged 60 and older. Expected that the peak of infections is yet to come. In hospitals, the infected, who are more severely affected, arrive with a delay of about one to two weeks. With the very high number of infected people, the likelihood increases that even older unvaccinated people will become infected and that more severe cases will have to be treated in hospitals, Geraedts points out.

Is the comparison of Germany with other countries permissible?

The comparisons with England and Denmark fall short for experts: In both countries the conditions are different than here. Denmark has a much higher vaccination rate, England a more advanced infection with already much higher death rates. Germany has four times as many unvaccinated people over 60 as England, said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) recently.

What preconditions do scientists cite for easing?

The Robert Koch Institute did present options for phased withdrawal of Corona measures last year – but a plan for the period with or after Omicron has not yet been published.

Geraedts gives specific parameters: Relaxations, he says, will not be possible until hospital occupancy rates for infected patients and the number of physician visits for Corona infection actually decline at a constant rate. Neither is the case so far.

Incidence and new infections, for example, have long been important factors in the pandemic. Even now, according to the RKI, they are not meaningless, but increasingly incomplete. The incidence currently does not reflect the true picture in view of the scarcity of PCR tests, Schroeder also emphasizes. Politicians would therefore have to assess the situation on the basis of a synopsis of various factors.

Which measures should fall last from a professional point of view?

The measure that, in the opinion of virologist Weber, should be retained for the longest time is mask-wearing: "It is a relatively tolerable but very effective measure – especially in sensitive places, such as indoors, mask-wearing should be retained. Or in situations with many unvaccinated children."

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