Saturday, January 23, 2021

Maskgate

While Germany's somehow successful fight against the pandemic is praised by many countries, we still started it badly. I am talking about the wearing of face masks.

Although in Asiatic countries, face masks are common and proven to be effective in preventing airborne infections, people wearing a mouth-nose-coverage in western countries were rarely seen at the beginning of 2020.

When the first wave of the pandemic swept through Europe the president of the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) Lothar Wieler said at the end of February on the subject of masks in everyday life, „There is no evidence whatsoever that this is helpful in any way."

On March 11, our Minister for Health Jens Spahn said that surgical mouthguards or medical masks provide "only manageable protection, to put it that way."

These statements by the federal government and the RKI on the wearing of face masks were not driven by facts: The aim was to prevent a run on masks so that the scarce commodity stayed reserved for those who needed it most urgently, the medical staff.

At that time, it was known that face masks protect efficiently against aerosols contaminated with the Coronavirus. On March 22, a study appeared in the medical journal, The Lancet, stating, "Universal use of face masks should be considered.“ This was not communicated: we, the people of Germany, we're screwed!

It was perfectly clear that wearing an Alltagsmaske (everyday mask mostly homemade) could at least protect other people to a certain extend. Germany’s Fauci, Christian Drosten acknowledged this fact for the first time in his popular radio podcast on March 23, adding that FFP2 masks could even protect oneself from being infected by others.

Red Baron proudly wearing an Alltagsmaske on a streetcar on April 10.
This “elegant” everyday mask was produced by a Turkish tailor in my quarter.
Only at the beginning of April, the RKI changed its strategy and recommended everyday masks. On April 17, Saxony became the first German state to decide to make masks mandatory with some success regarding the Coronavirus spread.

Above: Medical or surgical mask
Below: FFP2 mask certified in the European Economic Area (CE)
So by now, it is common knowledge that the wearing of appropriate masks reduces the risk of infection with Corona. Last Tuesday, our federal government in a video conference with all 18 state governors took this into account and imposed the wearing of medical or FFP2 masks in public places, i.e., public transport, hospitals, administrative buildings, and supermarkets. 
 
There were nine months between the beginning of April when the RKI came around to recommending masks. This leads to the crucial question: How can it be that Germany has not managed to provide the population with the cheapest, demonstrably effective means of containing the pandemic in more than nine months? How many lives could have been saved by wearing masks?

There is always at least one governor marching to a different drummer. Bavarian’s Markus Söder declared an obligation for an FFP2 mask in all public places where people cannot observe a sufficient distance.

Here is a defeatist remark by the president of the RKI, “FFP2 masks are masks used for medical, occupational safety. They have high efficiency if they're worn correctly and if the people who wear them are well educated about how to wear them."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Vaccinated

On Sunday night, December 27, I read an article in the daily Badische Zeitung (BZ) on my iPad titled: Questions and answers concerning Freiburg’s Central Vaccination Center. This article appeared in its paper edition only the following Monday.

One paragraph headed, “How can I register?” found my full attention:

Registration is possible online via a central web platform that can be accessed at http://www.impfterminservice.de. Appointments for the vaccination center in Freiburg can be booked there. However, only for those over 80 years of age, people in need of care and those who work in care. Entitlement will then be rechecked in detail on-site at the vaccination center.

Note date and time of the email
I immediately started to look for an appointment when the trouble started. After a long hour of frustration on the computer, I suddenly received a twelve-digit code and was assigned an appointment for February 7 at 8:30 a.m. Then the system asked me to reserve the date for the second shot of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine too, but there I failed.

Some friends aged above 80 but mostly younger than me tried in vain the following morning to reserve a date at the Impfzentrum.


Freiburg’s Central Vaccination Center is located at the Messehalle (Hall for Fairs and Exhibitions on Madison Allee

Waiting with distance outside
This morning I arrived 20 minutes early at the Impfzentrum. There were a few people in front of me, so I had to wait in line. The reception was as described in the BZ article:

The code and any certificates will be checked before entry to the exhibition hall. Inside, registration then takes place at set-up counters, where the health insurance card is also scanned. The vaccination center may only be entered wearing medical mouth-nose protection, which everyone should bring himself. If someone does not have such protection on hand, it will be provided by the center. All employees will wear FFP2 masks. A fever measurement will be taken at the entrance. Anyone with a body temperature above 37.5 degrees centigrade will not be allowed into the hall.

My vaccination booth.
The waste bin is marked Data Protection Garbage
Following all this, I have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-19 once and shall receive an invitation for my second shot.

Recovery space and coffee bar at 8:57 a.m.
Before we inoculated persons were allowed to leave the hall, we had to sit on chairs at appropriate distances. So I helped myself to a well-deserved espresso served at a small kiosk near the exit.

©BZ
I was positively impressed by the diligence, competence, and friendliness of the staff. They easily could inoculate 2000 persons a day but are limited by the quantity of the vaccine so far delivered. In the meantime, they found out that instead of five, they can squeeze out six doses from a flacon.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Renaming

Let me start by wishing you all a healthy 2021.

The topic of my first blog in the new year is "renaming." Red Baron has written about the renaming of streets in Freiburg and Berlin in the past. This time two small towns carrying names that no longer seem acceptable are presented.

For safer traffic.
Please, don't drive too fast! (©Kurier/Österreich)
The first village, originally named Fucking, is located in the so-called Innviertel (Inn quarter), an area that belonged to Bavaria for centuries. In 1779 the territory became Austrian in the Treaty of Teschen. This is why Hitler, born in Braunau am Inn had Austrian citizenship. For more information, read the appendix.

Wikipedia knows: The village’s name was particularly popular with British tourists; as a local tour guide explained, "The Germans all want to see Mozart's house in Salzburg; the Americans want to see where The Sound of Music was filmed; the Japanese want Hitler's birthplace in Braunau; but for the British, it's all about Fucking." Augustina Lindlbauer, the manager of an area guesthouse, added, "The area has lakes, forests, and vistas worth visiting, but there is an obsession with Fucking." She once explained to a British tourist, "There are no Fucking postcards."

Place-name signs were frequently stolen. So in August 2005, all eight signs at the four entrances to the village were secured against theft by setting them in concrete, riveting, and welding them.

The settlement Fucking is believed to have been founded in the 6th century AD by Focko, a Bavarian nobleman. Initially, in 1070, the village's name was documented as Vucchingen, as Fukching in 1303, as Fugkhing in 1532, and got its modern spelling in the 18th century. The ending -ing is an old Germanic suffix meaning the people belonging to the place of Fuck, i.e., Fuck’s people.  In German, the vowel "u," in Fucking is pronounced sounding like in English "book." 

The name was frequently used in German with the English connotation. A brewery fermented a Fucking pale lager beer and sold it as Fucking Hell. An effort to make Fucking into a spa (bath) ended badly with Bad Fucking.

Men at work (©Reddit)
On November 17, 2020, the municipal council decided to rename the village to Fugging as of January 1, 2021.

(©Sauerland Kurier)
The other village still to be renamed (?) is an idyllic spot in the Sauerland region, close to the popular Biggesee, with hiking trails in the greenery. The place called Neger is located in the valley of the river Neger and is divided into Unterneger, Mittelneger, and Oberneger. The names are several centuries old. No one accuses the 400 inhabitants of racist tendencies. However, in the face of everyday racism and increasing linguistic sensitivity, the name of the village causes confusion.

Where does the name come from? It has been documented for 700 years. The disturbing word is formed from a stem "Nag-." About the origin and original meaning of Neger, nothing exact can be said except that there isn’t any derivation from the Latin word "niger," which means black, dark.

Other place names could be controversial, like Mohrkirch and Negernbötel in Schleswig-Holstein or Groß Mohrdorf in Mecklenburg-Pomerania. These places are small and little known. Although place names should be treated as proper names, some linguists claim that today's origin plays a less important role than its current meaning.

The place-name Neger existed when its racist, personal designation in German was not yet known. The present-day meaning, however, is unambiguous.

A proposition goes like this: If the name can be derived historically from "Nag-," then why not "Nager"?* Then one could possibly say at some point: "Welcome to the Nager Valley!"
*Nager in German are rodents


Appendix:

Hitler (right) and his Bavarian comrades in France (©SZ)
Hitler, having renounced his Austrian citizenship in 1925 after he had served during the First World War as private first class and Meldegänger (reporting officer) in the German army in a Bavarian infantry regiment, ended up as a stateless person living in Germany.

In 1932 he eventually was made a German in the Free State of Brunswick with the help of his right-wing friends being employed as a Regierungsrat (state council) at the Landeskultur- und Vermessungsamt (state cultural and surveying department). He was supposed on duty as a clerk at the Brunswick state representation in Berlin, an appointment he never held.

The new state servant was sworn in on February 26, 1932, receiving at the same time the "citizenship in the Free State of Braunschweig," which simultaneously made him a "citizen of the Reich" under state law.

The whole „fascinating" story of Hitler‘s strive for German citizenship is well documented.