Despite the threat of the Delta variant, the German government continues its reopening policy
Although the new Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Europe, the German government is downplaying and masking the danger in order to continue its return to work policy.
The Delta variant (B.1.617.2) first appeared in India, where it caused an almost vertical increase in the number of coronaviruses and a death toll of nearly 400,000. It has since spread to the Kingdom United, where the highly contagious variant has caused a further rise in the number of infections and forced the Johnson government to delay the announced end of coronavirus measures by four weeks.
Portuguese authorities cordoned off the capital, Lisbon, for the weekend on Friday. “The numbers are increasing very quickly,” Vitor Almeida, of the Portuguese Medical Association’s crisis unit, told the Tagesschau news program. “The reason is undoubtedly also the Delta variant, which is dominant in Lisbon. Hence the government’s decision to set up a security cordon around Lisbon this weekend. Almeida considered the main problem to be in the working-class suburbs of the city, where people lived very close to each other and could not maintain social distancing.
But what are the German authorities doing to warn the population and take precautions? The answer is nothing. The problem is systematically relegated to the background and minimized. Even in the news about Portugal, Tagesschau was quick to reassure “holidaymakers from Germany” that the situation in Lisbon meant that they would only be affected in “exceptional cases”.
Currently, the European Football Championship dominates all TV channels and news broadcasts, and the stadiums are increasingly crowded. With the constant reports of vacations, tourism and summer events, it makes it look like the pandemic is over. In Berlin, the ban on dancing has just been lifted and up to 250 guests are now allowed to attend outdoor events without masks or social distancing.
Still, the news is anything but reassuring. More and more evidence suggests that the Delta variant is also spreading in Germany.
In Munich, 45 cases of the variant were officially detected. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reports a doubling of the share of the Delta variant from 3% to over 6% of all coronavirus infections, but those figures are already a few days old. In contrast, a group of laboratories in southern Germany that have sequenced coronavirus swabs at multiple sites reports that the highly contagious variant is already responsible for 11% of all new SARS-CoV-2 infections in the region of. Munich.
In Baden-Württemberg, the Stuttgart State Office of Health warned on Friday that a significant increase had been observed for two weeks. In the Heidenheim district, two school classes and a group of daycare centers had to be quarantined after a major outbreak was detected. Evidence of the Delta variant has been found in as many as 89 infected people.
In North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, around 150 students from neighboring towns of Soest and Werl were quarantined on Wednesday and Thursday after the Delta variant was detected in four homes. This affected the graduating classes of the secondary school in Soest and an entire primary school in Werl.
Following a graduation ceremony, “a clear search for contacts was no longer possible”, explained the Soest health service. Since May 12, there have been repeated cases of coronavirus in this neighborhood, in which the Delta virus has been detected. This variant was also detected in a primary school in Hamburg.
Doctors and virologists have long urged that the new variant be taken seriously, including Carsten Watzl, secretary general of the German Society for Immunology (DGfI).
“It can be assumed that by autumn at the latest, the Delta variant will be the dominant variant in Germany,” Watzl told the Augsburger Allgemeine journal of June 17. He called for accelerating the pace of vaccination. What was urgent was the installation of air filters and other structural responses in schools, warned the immunologist. Especially “if a large number of children are not vaccinated and the Delta variant arrives in the fall, there is again a threat of new epidemics in schools”.
What’s particularly troubling about the Delta variant is that it also threatens people who have only received one dose of the vaccine. Only complete vaccination with two doses confers some immunity in the case of this variant.
Against the background of this danger, it is particularly alarming that only a small proportion of the population in Germany has had two shots. Only 50 percent received the first dose and only 25 percent the second. Thus, several million young people aged 20 to 50, particularly active in professional and social life, are still unvaccinated and without immune protection.
Yet people are encouraged to act as if the pandemic is over, being sent back to work. Schools and nurseries will reopen without restrictions and the wearing of a mask is compulsory before the summer holidays.
“When I heard this I was shocked,” virologist Melanie Brinkmann said in an interview with Der Spiegel. “Masks are the lesser of evils, after all. We’re in a good starting position: it’s summer, you can open the windows in the classrooms, the incidence rates are low, we have vaccines, we are testing. But instead of proceeding cautiously, politicians were once again “acting impatiently and without a plan.”
The same Spiegel The article quotes Dirk Brockmann, of the Institute of Biology at Humboldt University, saying: “We are making the same mistakes again, while we now have the opportunity to apply clever reopening strategies … Instead , we’re releasing all of a sudden again. “
The government is fully aware of the dangers of its unscrupulous actions. Health Minister Jens Spahn (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) said at a press conference with RKI chief Lothar Wieler on Friday that it was “not a question of whether, but when the Delta variant will prevail in Germany and throughout continental Europe “. Nonetheless, all federal and state government politicians continue their dangerous policy of unrestricted reopening.
Although the number of daily incidences is only decreasing, reaching 10.3 per 100,000 on Friday, the death rates remain very high; they have been in the order of a hundred coronavirus deaths per day for days. More than 90,000 people have died from the coronavirus in Germany so far, and hundreds of thousands will suffer for the rest of their lives. At least one in ten infected people struggle with Long Covid.
None of this has any impact on policy makers. The new variant is not seen as an opportunity to publicize the enormous danger of the pandemic, to do everything possible to control it and prevent the spread of new variants. The interests of big business, the banking world and the super-rich take precedence. For them, 2020 has been a very good year. According to the latest Global Wealth Report, the number of super-rich in the world has increased by about 10% to 60,000, and they now together own 15% of the world’s wealth.
How ruthlessly banks and corporations demand back-to-work policies from governments is clear from a new proposal from the director of the Institute of German Economics (IW), Professor Michael Hüther. His institute compared the hours worked in Germany with those in Switzerland and Sweden. To take advantage of the “dormant growth potential in the German labor market”, Hübner now proposes that blue and white collar workers work an average of two hours more per week and take 1.5 weeks less vacation. “There is untapped potential in the German labor market,” reads an IW press release dated June 14, 2021.
It is clear that this is also the reason why nurseries and elementary schools must reopen completely at all costs. IW chief Hüther made this clear in an interview with Bild. “Many women, for example, work part-time against their will because there is a lack of nursery places.” He said it was time to address the failures of the past and ensure that hundreds of thousands of women can work full time.
It is also no coincidence that this economic institute compares German working hours with those of Switzerland and Sweden. These are the countries that have been among the most ruthless in implementing return-to-work policies during the pandemic, leading to higher than average coronavirus deaths.
The political handling of the coronavirus over the past 16 months has made it clear that in Germany, as in all capitalist countries, a ruthless policy of profits before life is pursued, characterized by a high degree of criminal negligence and systematic cover-ups. This will only change when the working class itself steps in and begins the struggle for a workers’ government.