March 2019 saw me in my new home city in Central Germany and two years on I am living in a time of a pandemic.
I began writing these letters at the start of the pandemic in an attempt to understand Germany better and to get to grips with my relationship with the United Kingdom.
July 7, 2021.
Recently I expressed how pleased I was to be able to share a shopping trolley when in a German supermarket meaning I no longer need to play dodgem cars in the aisles or at the checkout (unless I want to). The idea was of course to establish a degree of separation between customers and cut transmission rates of the Covid 19 bug.
The infection rate per 100,000 people in Gö is now at 1.2 (0.9 yesterday) which is remarkable and was achieved with good old fashioned epidemiological tactics to control and prevent the spread of disease. The German national rate is 5.1 with some areas doing better than others. The districts Neukoelln and Mitte in Berlin for instance exceeded a 7-day incidence of 100 cases per 100,000.
The trend is generally good, but the situation is not stable because of a fluctuation in Covid case numbers, which means that the still binding localised lock down triggers will activate when numbers reach certain specified points (35 being the first). It was only a short while ago when Germans looked enviously at the successful vaccination rate of the UK when it was at 24 per 100,000 and Germany 160 plus. The UK is at 244 on June 6 and rising – a daily rate of 28,773 cases whilst Germany is nearer 500.
In a recent survey only 16% of those asked in Germany thought that there would be no new Covid related restrictions in place at the end of the year. It seems clear to me that people here don´t think that Covid is going away despite a vaccination rate of over 700,000 doses administered per day reaching more and more people etc. In Germany 77,3M vaccine doses have been given and 32,4M people are fully vaccinated representing 39,0 % of the population.
In the UK, a total of 79,078,081 doses have been given, 33,726,362 with two. Translated this means 64% of the population are fully vaccinated.
There is a huge debate going on here on what benefits or if fully vaccinated and recovered people should have with the idea of going back to ´normal´ as best as possible. This debate is yet to run its course, but any governmental decision will have to follow the letter of the constitution and will be subject to challenge via the Constitutional Court, both at regional and national level.
The impression I have is that the mood in Germany is that Covid rules are there to protect the common good, to create a level playing field and to underscore a common understanding about conduct thus not allowing selfishness or a lack of care to hold others hostage. People are resigned to wearing masks in appropriate places for instance, but some wont unless required by law despite the potential risk. The German authorities at both local and national level are continuing to accept the responsibilty and it looks like legally binding mandates will remain although lessened
The ongoing issue beyond Covid cases is the stress put on health services from a high infection rate leading to non-Covid treatments being side-lined with subsequent increased waiting times whilst further exhausting staff (plus infrastructure) who have already had such an intense time.
So, rather than rushing to join with others in compact spaces for my thrills I go to a Covid savvy shop to buy clothes pegs, this being something I needed but I wanted to wait until the shops reopened and not buy online. Being a cyclist, I do a lot of clothes washing! It is another aspect of life I have noticed here in Germany is there seems to be more shops which sell stuff like clothes pegs than in London. In London, most shopping areas are awash with fast food and property agencies. For me it is a wise policy to buy from your local shops whenever you can because once they´ve gone all that´s left could be Amazon. It will be interesting to see how the High Street has changed during the pandemic.
For me life is built upon simple pleasures… and I have developed a prudent Covid mindset because the available vaccines do not offer 100% protection, it might keep you from death, but you can still get ill, and the first cases of the Delta Variant have been found in Gö on July 6.
I would have assumed that suppressing the virus should be option number one and variants love a rush of cases.