Coronavirus: Boom for panic and incompetence

By Rainer Rupp.

Panic concerning Corona, panic on the stock markets, panic on the oil market, panic in the financial system. – Panic alone is bad enough, because it paralyses people and makes rational reactions more difficult.

But when panic is coupled with the incompetence of the self-appointed political elites, the potential danger increases, with devastating consequences for society and the state structure.

At a meeting of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag on Tuesday, according to reports from members present, Chancellor Angela Merkel stated that she assumed that between 60 and 70 percent of people in Germany could become infected with the new coronavirus. That would be plus/minus 50 million Germans. Similar figures had previously been given by recognized virologists.

Of course, not all 50 million Germans would be infected at once, but the “infestation” of the population could take several years. With a mortality rate of 1 percent, as assumed by German experts, this would mean 500,000 deaths and a multiple of permanently damaged lung patients. Even if this number of victims were spread over several years, it would still be a catastrophe. But the situation could get even worse.

According to a statement by the World Health Organization WHO, the mortality rate of Covid-19, as the coronavirus is now officially called, is 3.4 percent. The figures now being reported from Italy are even more frightening: for every 9000 people infected, 476 people died on Tuesday of this week representing about 5.2 percent.

However, there are good reasons why both the WHO and the Italian numbers are too high. According to many indications, the assessment bases for counting those infected by corona can differ considerably.

For example, all those people who were infected by Covid-19 but who experienced the disease like any other influenza and recovered from it without their case being included in the statistics are not included in the count. In other countries, the health system is too chaotic to produce reliable data on the number of patients. In addition, the country with the greatest and longest experience with Covid-19 to date, namely China, has changed the definition of the virus several times during the course of the disease, for example in order not to automatically attribute “normal” pneumonia to Covid-19.

Therefore, the unexpectedly high mortality rate in Italy may have less to do with an already rumored, particularly dangerous mutation of Covid-19 than with a different way of counting infected persons, which may also be due, among other things, to differences in the classification in national health care systems. Nevertheless, it is clear that Covid-19 is at least as contagious as “normal” influenza, but with a mortality rate of 0.01 percent, which far exceeds it.

Given this background information, one would at least have expected Chancellor Merkel to make Covid-19 a matter for the boss. This would at least have spared us the everyday tragicomedy of Jens Spahn, a trained bank employee with a later university degree in political science, in the role of Federal Minister of Health. Quite helplessly, Spahn is trying to provisionally manage the catastrophic economy in the health care system, for which he and his party are responsible. However, where there is nothing, there is nothing to get. Across Germany, not even the medical staff treating Covid-19 patients can protect themselves sufficiently against infection. The appropriate protective material is missing and cannot be provided quickly.

The Spahn and his advisors have simply overslept all relevant and, due to the development in China, vivid warnings. He flippantly relativized the Covid-19 danger by referring to the flu, which a few years ago caused 25,000 deaths in Germany.

Since the Minister of Health and the government as a whole had not reacted, the panicked population acted and irrationally emptied the shelves of pharmacies. But in our perfectly organized, modern economy this was no cause for concern for Minister Spahn, because supplies were certainly already on their way. Nonsense.

In our great new world, where greed is cool and profit maximization is trump, thanks to neo-liberal globalization, medical protective clothing and accessories and about 80 percent of the common, even prescription drugs are manufactured in China. The remaining 20 percent come mainly from India.

In Germany and Europe, medical protective clothing and the common medicines have not been produced for a long time. We also no longer keep stocks as a precautionary measure, because delivery is always “just in time”, “exactly at the right time” via the closely networked supply chains. Just send us an email.

But now it suddenly didn’t work anymore. For weeks, about 300 different, for some patients even vital drugs have been unavailable in German pharmacies. Only in the countries where the responsible persons in the government have made sure that stocks are kept, it is different.

But making provisions for the welfare of the population is probably too much to ask of the Federal Minister of Health. Mr Spahn and his ministry, which has streamlined our health care system to maximize profits, has preferred to leave the security of supply for the population to the free play of the markets and the greed for profit on the part of pharmaceutical companies and their shareholders, instead of interfering in the markets.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, there has been an emergency reserve of crude oil for business and industry for decades, but there is no emergency stock of ingredients for the most common medicines and medical supplies for the benefit of the population.

Since any interference of the state in the sacred “FREE” economy is immediately reviled as socialism by interested circles, such measures are taboo for German politicians, fearing that they would then rightly be disgraced by those who hold the real power in the country.

Minister Spahn didn’t even react when pharmaceutical wholesale companies sold their remaining stocks back to China at higher prices when the stocks had run out there as well. When a few weeks later German hospitals and doctors’ offices began to demand more and more medical protective suits and masks in anticipation of Covid-19, there were none left.

It was only at this point that the Federal Ministry of Health issued a decree banning the export of these goods, which even applies to other EU countries. The popular expression is, “to close the stable door after the horse has bolted.“

In view of the Covid-19 developments in Italy, one can only shake one’s head in amazement at the drastic measures the crisis committee of the federal government, which consists of representatives of the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Health, decided on last Tuesday. Namely: For the time from 16 March onwards, no more groups of visitors are to be received in federal ministries and subordinate authorities until further notice! According to a statement, the measures are intended to reduce the possible risk of infection for the core functions of the Federal Government. Wow! The parliamentarians in the Bundestag had already decided a similar regulation for the Reichstag before.

And what else? It is further stated that the crisis committee has adopted the recommendation previously expressed by Health Minister Jens Spahn to cancel events with more than 1,000 participants. Major soccer events with tens of thousands of closely packed spectators remained unaffected. After all, this is only a recommendation from the crisis management team, which obviously assumes that Covid-19 is taking a wide bypass around football stadiums.


Thanks to the author for the right to publish the article.


Picture reference: Tero Vesalainen / shutterstock


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