Covid-19, the German example and painful comparisons

2 min
German Chancellor Angela Merkel / EFE

The light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel is still very dim. It is better to be warned. No one is safe because the new variants are modifying the initial plans and the vaccine race does not seem to have been won yet. In Portugal and Ireland, the arrival of the British variant, of which there is increasing evidence that it is more transmissible and perhaps more lethal, meant cases shot up in a matter of days. For this reason, many countries are holding their breath, confident that they can contain the explosion by maintaining restrictions. That's what Germany has done, where yesterday Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to extend the hard lockdown until March 7. We're talking about a lockdown that means having practically everything closed, to the point that hairdressers will not reopen until March 1. Although the different länder have, as befits a federal state, the power to regulate these restrictions, and some are considering opening schools at the end of the month, the recommendation is to keep them open for as long as possible. At the moment the cumulative incidence (AI) over the last 7 days in Germany is 68 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and yesterday the Chancellor said that the goal was no longer 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants but 35. It is, they believe, to keep the infection to a minimum to avoid the ravages of these new variants and make the vaccination process safe.

The German example is one of those that hurts in different ways because it puts us in front of a mirror that we do not like very much. It is true that the economic powerhouse of Europe can afford these drastic closures because it is providing substantial aid to the affected sectors. But it also has to put up with a lot of internal discontent, protests and pressure to reopen. Even so, there is a clear discourse on what the objectives are, and they are much more ambitious than what we seem to be setting ourselves here at the moment.

Yesterday, the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, also set the goal of having an AI of 50 to be calm, but the road to reach it is far harder than in Germany. If there they are now at 68, in Spain as a whole we are at 210, and in Catalonia at 156, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health. It is true that we are improving, but it is a slow process. Even more so because here almost everything is open, despite the opening restrictions, and even this week in Catalonia some limitations have been lifted. The absurdity of the dilemma between health and economy is becoming increasingly clear. If we do not stop covid, this will be an even longer agony that will end up sinking us more and more. Yesterday it became known that Girona is the Catalan province where GDP fell the most in 2020, 14.2%, and this because of its dependence on foreign tourism. Tourists will not return until they feel safe. The vaccination campaign will be long, and there are still difficult months to come. Now that we are almost there, we must be responsible.