Just as it has in 200 other countries, the coronavirus has led to an essential halt to everyday life in Germany. Education facilities moved online, businesses closed, and people are experiencing different ways of doing things. Germany also has demonstrated its capability to implement strong new measures and policies in response to the pandemic. For example, the public health sector is analyzing up to 500,000 tests within 5 days and thereby capturing a majority of infected people (also those not showing any symptoms). Compared to other countries, the death rate remains low (2,000 deaths as of the 8th of April 2020). All hospitals are on high alert, keeping ICU units clear of other patients and preparing for the worst-case scenario.
The government has announced that a bonus of 1,500 € will be granted to all medical staff (full-time), and 900 € to those in current medical education.
In the economic sector, the federal government and also the regional governments have worked very hard on financial survival packages for small businesses, banks, and the hospitality sector. Within a week, the federal government announced its support for small businesses that now can apply for an immediate € 9-15,000 dependent on the business’s size.
Medium-sized businesses will be supported through a 400 billion euro economic stabilization fund.
Furthermore, larger firms like Lufthansa can take out loans without a guarantee (this will be covered by the government instead) through the German development bank ‘Kreditbank fuer Wiederaufbau’.
But within this economic stimulus package, no strategy and no specific comment was made in relation to any climate change adaptation or mitigation measures. The German Minister for Environment warned in one of her comments that a rebound effect will take place if we do not consider a long-term more sustainable ‘Corona Exit Strategy’. In an interview with the national German radio, the social psychologist Hermann Welzer was less optimistic about deep and long-term changes on climate-motivated measures both from the society as well as from the political perspective. Welzer refers to the lifestyle of our society before the corona crisis caused the total lockdown in Germany. Typically, people were too busy with their everyday lives, working, joining events, and taking the things as they come not considering the origin (eg. the origin of the product bought in the shop). This changed with the coronavirus, as some shops ran out of supply and people started to think about what and where to buy. According to Welzer, the duration of this lockdown will not be able to change people’s habits.
The crisis has made the government aware that its country needs to reconsider its dependency on other countries. Essential products like medical equipment (e.g. masks and disinfection liquid) need to be produced domestically. Also, Germany has realized how much it relies on international, seasonal, and migrated workers such as farming assistants, supermarket employees, and medical staff.
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The COVID-19 crisis has brought about an immediate effect on CO2 emissions. Less traffic in the cities and closed factories have reduced the carbon footprint of Germany substantially. But is this for the long-term? It is a good sign when experiencing the local everyday ways in which communities are evolving and solidarity is taking a new place in our daily routine. Social Media, webinars, bakery drive-ins; all these are small and encouraging steps to a more sustainable and more locally orientated lifestyle. The federal government is, however, not acknowledging these steps enough. There is not a daily word of gratitude to the “workers” that keep our current life going. The medical staff should receive a general pay raise, not just a one-off bonus. And what about the farmers, the supermarkets, and the public transport sector that we need to function in this unique situation? Without a clear push towards greater sustainability from the federal government, greenhouse gas emissions will peak once again, as they did in the past.
The federal government is encouraged to take the unique corona situation as a chance. Invest in more digital infrastructure to allow businesses, and especially the larger companies to do more digital conferences. This would substantially reduce the amount of internal air-traffic. It may even be possible to receive bonuses for less flying activities from a company. Enforce new policies that make working in home-office more flexible for families with children to give them more time with their children. If we want to prevent these crises from happening again, we also need to think about the source of not only the coronavirus but also all the other viruses that we have dealt with in the last 10 years. The government is advised to listen to what the scientists currently say on the loss of species diversity and how it directly links to the fast spread of viruses. There have been warnings about the coronavirus coming to Germany since 2005. The bird virus happened not long ago and also HIV was initially transmitted by apes. The natural world seems to be offering a reset, but we should see this as a chance to take a different path than initially planned. We cannot keep on interfering in the natural sphere without experiencing the consequences of our actions. Everything is connected.
Ministry for Employment and Social Affairs ‚Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales (BMAS)‘
Phone: 03018 527-0
Prof. Dr. Dirk Brockmann (Project manager of Epidemiologic modelling of infectious diseases)
Phone: +49 30 18754 2070
Written by Berit Mohr, Country Manager
Link to information on financial survival packet from the federal government:
Link to interview with social psychologist Harald Welzer:
Link to explanation of financial support packet
Link to article released from National German Radio on infectious diseases from animals