German Chancellor Angela Merkel is planning to discuss an exit strategy from the corona lockdown with the federal states this Wednesday. She announced last week that she will listen carefully to advice from the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences. Scientists there published their advice today. It features the combined opinions of 26 scientists from a variety of disciplines.
Here are some of the highlights:
- reopen schools as soon as possible, especially primary schools
- mandatory face masks and/or maintain a distance of two meters
- reopen shops, restaurants and cultural institutions subject to strict conditions
- a voluntary and temporary mobility tracking app
- widespread testing: a second wave of the virus must be avoided
The scientists consider that a clear exit strategy with a positive message is vital. Politicians should not underestimate how much psychological distress is caused when people don’t know where they stand. On the other hand, the danger that the virus will flare up again is very real. Therefore, a speedy return to normality is out of the question, instead it will take a few small steps at a time.
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For example, Leopoldina does not offer football fans much hope of packed stadiums anytime soon. Sports events as such are okay, but everyone must keep their distance. This is especially difficult, if not impossible, for football games with grandstands. The same goes for the various summer festivals. By contrast, theaters could well start again, but if everyone wears face masks and makes sure that there is enough space in between each other.
In any event, face masks have an important role to play according to the advice given by scientists. In fact, everyone should have a face mask or a cloth with them to cover their nose and mouth on public transport, in shops, restaurants and at work. Plane travel may also become an option again as long as passengers sit as far apart from each other as is reasonably possible.
Kindergartens not opening yet
One of the first priorities should be to reopen the schools, the German scientists state. This is important in order to relieve the burden on families, yet also to prevent an escalation of social inequality. This applies especially to children in the oldest groups of primary school, those who are on their way to secondary school. Education in the classroom (as opposed to at home) is essential there. Those classes should therefore be the first to restart, for example, with a maximum of 15 children. These children should also begin to wear face masks.
For those with younger children this is likely to be a disappointment. Scientists think that these little ones don’t quite know how to handle a face mask yet. That’s why kindergartens or day care centers shouldn’t open again until after the summer holidays, unless it’s a matter of emergency.
Economically conservative and climate-friendly
It is worth noting that the German scientists are still conservative when it comes to economic policy. All the help that is now being given must be temporary. As soon as the crisis is over, the so-called “Schuldenbremse” ought to be reinstated. This implies a balanced budget and no new (net) public debts. Finally, the Leopoldina scientists reiterate that the European Climate Agreement must not be undermined. On the contrary, politicians should instead use the current crisis to do more for the environment rather than less.
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