In 2021 Corona is back again, or more accurately, it never left, as is the case with the discussions about adequate responses to it. The German method of a moderate lockdown seems rather less successful. France has taken very drastic measures, but has de facto been able to reduce the numbers drastically, albeit from a much higher base level. Such an approach could therefore also gain a foothold across Europe. Similar tough constructs also seem to have been crowned with success in Ireland and Greece.
However, this does not necessarily mean that such a seemingly rather short-term recycled stopgap solution is the best or only option. A cursory look at other countries paints a more nuanced picture: Austria does have a stricter lockdown, but also allows visits by close caregivers, for example. Belgium and Spain also have less strict lockdowns with only nighttime curfews, and yet the numbers in these three countries are going down*.
On the positive side, it is perhaps worth mentioning that not all countries have adopted exactly the same resolutions and that one could therefore also evaluate more or less which regulations are more likely to lead to success. This is not the purpose of the current article, however. After such an analysis, one should also not criticize other countries excessively for their measures, as long as these were well thought out and prepared according to up-to-date scientific information. Although we are already experiencing the second lockdown for the most part, and in some cases now the third, the methods still seem to be the same as the first time, although some adjustments have been made. For example, in France you are now allowed to enter surrounding parks again during the daily hour exit instead of squeezing into narrow streets. Beyond that, however, there seems to be a lack of creativity. Despite all this, the rules should of course also remain understandable and comprehensible and only restrict citizens’ daily lives in areas where it really makes sense and is necessary. For this reason, I’ve put together a few possible (not necessarily new) suggestions for discussion:
1) An extensive lockdown should definitely be announced early (1-2 weeks in advance). Until now, lockdowns were mostly decided on very short notice. Plannability and predictability are important so that companies, etc. can adjust to the new situation. Families should also be explicitly encouraged to form, for example, care and leisure communities with 1-2 fixed other households. Beyond that, there should then be no need for further contacts during the lockdown phase. Single households could organize 1-2 other fixed households/cuddle contacts (similar to the Belgian close relative concept) and even move in together if in doubt. Unfortunately, something like this doesn’t happen overnight. However, short-term decisions could already include contact restrictions to prevent events like “the last big bender together before the lockdown”.
2) Observe the public local & long-distance traffic and if necessary agree upon increase of the frequencies with the transportation companies. Unfortunately, there are still very tightly packed trains at peak times. It would also be important to identify peak times and communicate them publicly: “The S-Bahn usually has the highest passenger volume around 9 a.m., try to leave a little earlier/later” or “This supermarket has the highest customer volume from 16-18:00, but 11:00-12:00 is mostly empty”. Such information could also be useful later on. Encourage companies that don’t have a home office to be a little more flexible or stagger their working hours.
3) A stakeholder map for the systematic evaluation of the impact and the proportionality of the taken measures should be created, with impulses from civil society on the individual groups of people that should be included in it (creative industries, informal associations, various social institutions or even hard-working SMEs that will continue to bear the brunt of the crisis in the future). There are so many groups, most of which will certainly all be mentioned in politics at some point – thanks to the democratic system – but individual groups are often overlooked due to the inevitably short decision-making processes.
4) Include recommendations for action and references to voluntary contact persons (e.g. companies from similar sectors) for the exchange of experience in applications for revenue reimbursement. Volunteers could register somewhere centrally (i.e. by mail) and be referred to the possibility of acting as a future contact person directly when submitting their own application.
5) One could implement a real take-away principle, similar to what already exists in France as well as in England under the name “Click & Collect”. Questions such as “Where do I get the containers from?, How do we switch to cashless payment? Which online portals are available?” etc. could be addressed centrally so that this work does not have to be done each time again by individual restaurants. In the long term, this would certainly reduce the loss of revenue that would then have to be reimbursed to the company by the state.
6) Enable quarantine stays in hotels that voluntarily agree to do so (this would also be an additional source of income to increase Corona aid, the price range could be centrally specified i.e. 25-60€/night, excluding food). Support these hotels also with the implementation (i.e. How should the cleaning of laundry, rooms and dishes take place?), in other countries (i.e. Taiwan) this is already possible and the idea already existed in Germany.
7) Give people in quarantine a chance to participate in the pandemic response. For example, in the context of follow-up, mental support, and sharing experiences with other people in quarantine. This also counteracts boredom and feelings of helplessness and lost time, and helps to improve compliance with regulations.
8) When following up with contacts, take them directly rather than having the caller wait for a call back. Prioritization could also be done here already and more attention could be given to infection events that may not have occurred too long ago. General requests for information should also be possible without recording personal details. Such a recording has a deterrent effect and thus tends to promote voluntary ignorance of problems.
9) Expand statistics in consultation with academia. For example, ct value and probable reason for infection could be included.
10) Give teachers and students together the chance to prioritize the course content – being able to list all particles that require the accusative are probably not too important for future life (curricula in general could be updated). Older students could probably be put into remote teaching altogether, in elementary schools class groups could be split into small standing teaching/social groups. Student teachers should be recruited for (digital) support, among other things, and it should be ensured that this time is counted toward their degree. Zoom presence times should be limited (i.e. max 3-4h per day plus sufficient breaks).
11) Define rules of thumb for mask wearing in outdoor areas: If there is a bunch of people on the street, wearing a mask is appropriate. Is it possible to pass each other with sufficient distance (>2m) without further ado? If not, wearing a mask is again appropriate. This should be relatively understandable – even for people who are critical of excessive mask wearing – and does not require explicit control. Rather, such control should first occur in closed public facilities.
12) Collecting guidelines for the selection and realistic possible handling and care of masks: For example, information on the maximum wearing time, the regular washing of the mask (i.e. 1x a week? at 50°C+?, in a separate hand wash or in the machine with other clothes? Every day boil wash is possible in the rarest cases). Where is the best place to store the mask when it is not worn? Which mask is best for which purpose, for example, a visit to a nursing home, a one-hour train ride, or an eight-hour work shift? Which masks offer more comfort – which offer more protection but can only be worn for shorter periods? What are the alternatives if a certain type of mask causes a skin rash?
Many of the proposed measures are even lockdown-independently applicable in a pandemic situation. If this comes too late for the current pandemic, perhaps just bookmark it for the next pandemic as food for thought. We look forward to reading other experiences and suggestions in the comments.
* Similar curfews previously existed in France and now exist in other countries where they are/were less effective, however, and may suggest that other/additional factors are key.