Caught in the lockdown loop ?: With a fax machine and a ballpoint pen, we don’t beat Corona politics

What will come after the November lockdown? The government has not yet provided a concrete answer to the question.

And she also owed an answer: what if the lockdown ends on December 1 because the new infections are in the green again – but at the end of December the new infections will be as high as they are now? The question is certainly not purely theoretical.

Israel has just shown how a short lockdown can drastically reduce new infections, almost by a factor of ten. Now the country is opening again. But it is also clear, as October showed in Germany: Within just a month, the daily registered new infections can also increase by a factor of ten.

So the malicious lockdown awakening on January 1 follows alongside the New Years Eve hangover? Is everything tight for another month? And then open again in February and closed again in March? Are we stuck in the lockdown loop until vaccination gets us rid of sometime in late 2021?

One third of Germans are tired of the measures

Theoretically, the virus could be controlled in this way. But this scenario has two big catches: the economy would barely last – DIW estimates that the current November freeze alone will cost the economy about $ 20 billion – and social unrest would dangerously intensify. A third of Germans are already saying that the planned partial lockdown is going too far for them.

Two things are becoming painfully clear these days. First, the rulers lack a medium-term strategy in the fight against the virus. Second, the rulers slept all summer to prepare the land for the Corona fall storm.

Both may also have something to do with a problem that has often been raised and regretted in recent years, but never really addressed: Germany is stubborn and even hostile to innovation when it comes to technical innovations. But especially in a pandemic, with a completely new situation, good ideas, creativity and quick, unbureaucratic reactions are required.

Slow cure for a lightning-fast virus

The fact that employees at the health authorities sometimes still work with ballpoint pens, Excel lists and fax machines instead of digitally to track corona contacts and transmit case numbers is one of the stranger examples of what goes wrong in the pandemic. These are the slow means of the 20th century against a rapid pandemic of the 21st century.

Some no less astonishing examples can be easily found and used as an approximation of what can be improved.

First, why is it still unclear where and how many infections occur?

The RKI still cannot say exactly where which contamination risk exists. Since mid-May, the health authorities have been obliged to provide information about the likely infection route to the RKI within two working days. It just didn’t happen for a long time. Also because the RKI software did not make it possible to report information about the infection site until the end of September.

And so it happens that experts are still in the dark about where infections actually occur. Targeted measures beyond locking a lawn mower are hardly possible.

Second, what’s the best way to secure places where infections occur?

After more than six months of the pandemic, it is surprising how poorly this question is answered. What does a corona-resistant classroom look like? Like a restaurant, a cinema? Fortunately, trying on a small scale is the solution. But where are the large-scale studies, why were they not finished long ago?

There is a good role model and that also shows what is possible: in August three pop concerts by Tim Bendzko took place in Leipzig under scientific supervision. A maximum of 8700 spectators were allowed. The central question: how do infection chains run in such a framework and what does a largely safe event look like?

The answer: halving the number of spectators, combined with a mask requirement, fixed seating and an admission concept that keeps the lines short even at incidence values ​​around 50, would make the contribution of such events to the spread of the virus in a city like Leipzig are very small. There is therefore no reason to prohibit such events in principle.

Repeating something like this for a much smaller restaurant, movie theater or school should be easy. It was not ready.

The goal here would be clear: every indoor location outside one’s own apartment should be “corona-optimized” in order to induce as few infections as possible while ensuring daily life as much as possible.

Third, where’s the antivirus technology?

Yes, it comes slowly, but you wonder how slow. For example, ventilation systems that can filter up to 90 percent of viruses from the air in a classroom have been around for a long time. The question: why isn’t there already one in every classroom in Germany that supports manual ventilation?

It doesn’t have to be expensive. The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry has developed a filter system that you can even build yourself and that costs about 200 euros. A good deal when you consider that Olaf Scholz is putting ten billion euros on the table in November alone as a lockdown aid for companies. At least a first step: all Berlin schools will receive air measurement equipment that indicates when they need to be ventilated.

Fourth, why don’t we experiment more?

An example from Hamburg, reported by “Zeit”, is indicative here. The short version: An entrepreneur and a software expert develop an option for a “free pass”. With rapid PCR tests, it gives a degree of certainty that you will not be contagious for a period of time. During this time, you can go to a concert, bar or club and have fun, almost like you used to.

In this context, the two even want to use an innovative PCR testing technology that is significantly cheaper and faster than conventional ones. It would be a project worth trying as it can lead to more mundane life and less contamination. The two Hamburgers were given the cold shoulder by the authorities in Hamburg.

Why don’t health authorities organize corona hackatons across the country – an April WHO move could serve as a model – to develop creative ideas like the one from Hamburg and then test them?

Fifth, why are you so defensive with the Corona app?

A pandemic in the 21st century can probably best be fought with the tools of the 21st century: an app. Well, they already exist. However, it remains almost criminal under its means.

The messages for the green risk encounters, for example a level below the red, where you should be tested or quarantined, are largely worthless. You don’t know where they happened and what you should change in your daily life, outside of the aha rules that you follow anyway.

It would be more beneficial if one knew the respective place of meeting. Then you could avoid this place in the future or behave differently there.

Another example: still only about ten percent of infected cases are reported to the app every day, even though the tool has been downloaded more than 20 million times so far; about a quarter of Germans have it on their mobile phone.

Yes, you hear about data protection again and again when it comes to the app. That is surprising.

Because almost every German leaves most of their private data with American technology companies for free every day. And nobody cares. What about if the app had a setting that could share more information useful in fighting pandemic? If that helps prevent further lockdowns, it wouldn’t be a bad deal.

And perhaps the app can be devised even further: as a contact point.

Each app user could get information about how many people they had interacted with in the past few days. The app could judge if there are too many and if a “contact diet” for a few days would be appropriate. Smartphone users have now counted and checked almost everything on their devices – so why not something as critical as contacts?

The alternative is further lockdowns

Certainly, not all measures will stop the pandemic. But they would probably help to keep them manageable, to be able to detect chains of infection more quickly, and to prevent them from forming in everyday places at all.

Not even trying would be the worst solution. Because then there is only the threat of further lockdowns.

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