Fall lockdown? Experts say when we need the option

Politicians rely on this to enforce lockdowns, mask requirements and contact restrictions
German Infection Protection Act
. This important legal basis was repeatedly changed during the pandemic and adapted to the current infection situation. For example, the law was scaled back significantly this spring.

On September 23, 2022, however, the provisions that have been in force since then will expire. The traffic light coalition is currently advising on how to proceed. According to World Medical Director Frank Ulrich Montgomery, one point in particular should not be missing in the new provision: the option of a lockdown.

“Anyone who categorically excludes measures such as contact restrictions or lockdowns from the outset has neither understood the meaning of the law nor understood the seriousness of the situation,” said the chairman of the World Medical Association to the newspapers of the Funke media group on Wednesday. “An infection protection law should open up opportunities and save lives.”

That is why it must contain the “tool box” that politicians can use if the situation requires it. That does not automatically mean that a lockdown will actually be imposed. “Whether the instruments are used later depends on the assessment of the situation. But it should be undisputed that you need them.”

What scientists say about the lockdown

“We shouldn’t rule out anything from the outset,” said epidemiologist Timo Ulrichs when asked by FOCUS Online. “Although we don’t yet know the course and characteristics of the autumn wave, the mere fact that so little is planned or prepared in advance increases the risk that more extensive measures will be necessary in autumn and winter.” The reason for this: because lighter measures such as the mandatory wearing of masks indoors were not taken in the summer.

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“We should be aware that in the future there will always be new viruses from the animal world breaking into mankind,” explains virologist Friedemann Weber to FOCUS Online. “Initially, no one will have immunity to these pathogens. That is why we should not rule out such instruments as a lockdown from the outset.”

According to Ulrichs, however, it is “still open” whether a lockdown will actually be necessary. There are still many possible scenarios that do not require lockdowns. You have to keep in mind that the lockdowns also have side effects. But: “In our preparations for the coming Corona season, we should plan as if a rather worse scenario would occur.”

In such a scenario, Sars-Cov-2 variants appeared against which our existing immunity is of no use at all, adds virologist Weber. Or a new, airborne and highly pathogenic virus could emerge. However, Weber considers this to be “very unlikely”. The vaccinations and infections led to “not inconsiderable population immunity”.

According to Ulrichs, whether tough measures will actually be taken again can be determined by the expected number of victims and an overload or decompensation of our health system. “We have to consider that we still have many unvaccinated people at risk in Germany and that the resilience of the German healthcare system has weakened,” says Ulrichs, referring to the increasing shortage of staff and specialists. In addition
In the worst case, further crises could have to be overcome, such as heating hospitals in winter
.

What politicians say about the lockdown

With his demand, Montgomery goes against previous statements by many politicians. For example, Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann (FDP) gave in an interview with the
“Daily News”
new lockdowns a clear rejection. “For all we know, lockdowns, school closures and curfews are no longer proportionate today, in my view.”

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Such measures could only be taken in the early stages of a pandemic. “Now we are in the third year. And if we know today that these measures have a very poor cost-benefit profile, then we should say goodbye to them once and for all,” Buschmann continued.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in
„ARD-Sommerinterview“
also: “… I don’t think we need a lockdown like we’ve had in recent years.” In the meantime, for example, because of the high vaccination rate of around 76 percent, the situation has “completely changed”.

Green health politician Janosch Dahmen sees things differently. He recently said in the “ARD morning magazine” that he expects “it will get so bad again that the whole country has to be shut down with a big lockdown”.

Is Germany participating in another lockdown?

It should be clear that the Germans would hardly be enthusiastic about another lockdown. “I can understand that too,” says virologist Weber. In the spring of 2020, people would still have “participated very well”, after which the numbers would drop. “In autumn 2020, however, there was general uncertainty because more and more actors felt called to get involved in the discussion.”

According to epidemiologist Ulrichs, it is “a question of communication”. He advises: “Introducing lighter measures to mitigate the summer wave and prevent a larger fall wave from following it can obviate the need for tougher measures later in the year.” This should be communicated now – along with a good vaccination campaign.

Because the lockdown would by no means only have consequences for private individuals. Club and discotheque operators are also following the current debate “with great concern”, as the general manager of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga), Ingrid Hartges, told the Funke newspapers. She warned that measures such as a mask requirement or a rapid test requirement for the vaccinated and unvaccinated (1G) at major events should only be introduced if they are necessary to contain the pandemic. “The decisive factors must be how dangerous a virus variant is and how high the hospitalization rate is,” said Hartges.

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Jörn Holtmeier, Managing Director of the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry Auma, told the Funke newspapers: “The federal and state governments already determined in May 2020 that trade fairs are not major events. The trade fair industry in Germany expects the federal and state governments to stick to this agreement in the third year of Corona.” In the coming autumn/winter alone there will be many “important international world trade fairs” in Germany. Holtmeier warned: “Political communication in its undifferentiated form about possible restrictions is increasingly endangering Germany as the world’s number one trade fair location.”

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