Berlin Today, the heads of government from the federal states will talk to Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) again. The direction is clear: There will be an extension of the lockdown, probably until 31 January. Details on schools are still undecided.
The lessons of last year have been learned: When Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) meets uncoordinated with the state premiers for consultations, those meetings usually turn into marathon sessions. Open end, nerves on edge. In the past, the heads of the German states have been disgruntled when papers from the Chancellor's Office containing harsh lockdown measures have fluttered onto their desks the day before a meeting. Conversely, the chancellor does not like it at all when she has to listen to hours of arguments that, in her opinion, could have been clarified in advance.
Thus, at least since the penultimate Minister Presidents' Conference (MPK), there has been a move towards precise coordination in advance. And so, on Monday, it was already possible to find out what the majority of the Minister Presidents wanted to decide - namely, an extension of the lockdown. Helge Braun (CDU), Merkel's chief negotiator, spoke on Monday in an internal meeting, according to participants, of a "high willingness" of the Länder to extend the lockdown, with a "relative probability" until 31 January. According to reports, the CDU/CSU-led states had already agreed on this line on Sunday evening. The SPD, on the other hand, is not yet in complete agreement, and two states have a more differentiated view of the situation. The final decision will be made today, Tuesday.
Intensive care doctors alarmed
But an extension until the 31st seems conclusive, because intensive care physicians continue to sound the alarm. The German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (Divi) warned against a relaxation in view of the numbers in intensive care units. An effect of the current lockdown is usually noticeable with a delay of two to three weeks, "but at the moment nothing is noticeable at all", said Divi President Gernot Marx. A relaxation of the measures, more encounters and opening of shops is therefore unthinkable from a medical point of view, he said. Every patient can and must be treated. However, this is no longer possible in all cases close to home. "This is another reason why a continuation of the lockdown is inevitable: the wards are full." In the past twelve days, according to Divi data, around 7400 new Corona patients in a threatening condition were admitted to intensive care units across Germany. In addition, there are about 15 000 other intensive care patients.
These warnings have reached government spokesman Steffen Seibert. On Monday, he referred to reports from the hospitals, which would make clear "quite forcefully, the extremely difficult situation". Seibert did not explicitly advocate an extension of the lockdown. But his words leave little room for alternatives. After all, "So it remains crucial to avoid new infections wherever possible.“
Chancellor has mixed feelings about attendance training
Chancellor's Office Minister Braun also addressed the topic on which there are the greatest differences before the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the afternoon: the opening of schools. From the Chancellor's Office's point of view, there is an "outbreak" at schools, pupils function as "infection bridges". Therefore, the Chancellor sees attendance classes with very mixed feelings. Braun knows that this is the "most difficult issue". With regard to the discussion on school openings, health politicians are pushing for Corona vaccines for children. "It is important that we soon have vaccines available that are also approved for children," the chairman of the Bundestag health committee, Erwin Rüddel, told our editorial team. Research must be intensified in this area. The costs to society as a whole of closing a school should not be underestimated. That is why it is important that the federal states vaccinate a lot quickly. "The more vaccination progress we make, the better the risk groups will be protected when the schools reopen," the CDU politician explained.
The federal government was visibly trying to spread confidence with regard to vaccination. The focus was at first on the people in the nursing homes, Seibert made clear. If it is possible to reach the vast majority of them in the next few weeks, "that will already make a clear difference for our health system, for the infection situation - and for the better", he said.
Faster vaccination of hospital staff called for
The German Hospital Association is not quite so optimistic. It called for a faster vaccination of hospital staff. From the association's point of view, the central goal in the national management of the pandemic must be to prevent hospitals from being overburdened and to strengthen their medical performance. "To this end, the priority vaccination of all hospital staff involved in direct covid patient care is immensely important and timely," DKG CEO Georg Baum told our editorial team. "We appeal to the federal states to take into account the special role of hospitals here when making decisions on the distribution of vaccines," Baum continued. The road to normality - it is still very far away at the beginning of 2021.
Original text: Gregor Mayntz, Kerstin Münstermann and Jana Wolf
Translation: Mareike Graepel