Thursday, April 16, 2020

Caution Is the Mother of Wisdom

This is a German proverb although it is mostly used in its colloquial form, “Vorsicht ist die Mutter der Porzellankiste" (the case filled with chinaware, n.b. that’s no pun on China).

This proverb was the motto of the opening of the Corona lockdown in a toddling pace in Germany. Yesterday, the following easing measures were agreed upon and announced by the federal government and the governors of Germany’s states.

On Monday, April 20, some shops will be allowed to reopen, although only those with a surface of less than 800 square meters* provided the necessary protections are in place to enable strict physical distancing (1.5 meters minimum).
*8600 square feet

From left to right: Bavaria’s governor, Ministerpräsident Markus Söder,
Chancellor Angela Merkel, Hamburg’s governor, Erster Bügermeister Peter Tschentscher,
 Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finances Olaf Scholz.
In the background government spokesman Steffen Seibert (©Bundesregierung/Steins).
The NYT observed: Highlighting a broad consensus, the chancellor was flanked at her hourlong news conference not just by her finance minister, but also by the governor of Bavaria and the mayor of Hamburg.

While in the past, the media had often rebuked the patchwork rug of rules due to our federal structure, this time, Markus Söder emphasized its strength of federalism. The Corona situation varies in different parts of Germany*and above all the cultural sovereignty is with the states, n.b., education.
*It is rather bad in Bavaria partly caused by a crowded strong-beer festival in Tirschenreuth in March

So the timing is up to the governors when schools will open step by step in their states. Older students might be allowed back to school as early as April 27, although in a radically changed setup involving small groups, face masks, and physical distancing in school buses.

Germany will cautiously start its Gratwanderung (balancing act) of easing the lockdown. Although the number of new infections is decreasing, it is a dangerous path, for we are still in phase 2 of the epidemic, i.e., mitigating the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Professor Wieler of the Robert-Koch Institut (RKI) insists on massive testing* to regain control about the spread of the Coronavirus. He would like to go back to phase 1, where single cases can be followed closely, and contact persons are quarantined.
*Currently Germany is testing 100,000 people a day

Although this cartoon insinuates a black market for masks,
Red Baron was able to replace his torn mask with a sturdier model.
My pharmacy sold four masks for euro 9,90 (©T-Online/Mario Lars).
Our government strongly recommends the use of Mund-Nasen-Bedeckungen (coverage of mouth and nose) in enclosed public spaces like shops and public transport without making the wearing of masks mandatory.

And while our chancellor holds a doctorate in physics, she ended the press conference, as the NYT wrote, with detailed explanations of the science behind the government plan.

Ms. Merkel said, “The key variable is the so-called reproduction factor of the virus — the number of people an infected person passes the virus on to.”

“That factor currently stands at about 1,” she continued, “meaning that one person gets infected by every newly infected person. If that factor rose even to 1.1, the German health care system would reach capacity by October.”

“If it were allowed to rise to 1.2 — so out of five infected people one infects not one but two additional people — that limit is reached by July.”

“With 1.3,” Ms. Merkel continued, “we have reached the limit of our health care system by June.”

“So you can see how small our leeway is,” she said, “the entire development rests on having a number of infections that we can keep track of and trace.”


The chancellor ended, “We need to understand that we need to live with this virus as long as there is no vaccine and no treatment.”

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