Public Policy Dynamics Germany #4

by RPP colleagues

Health and Politics in Germany

Total COVID-19 cases:2,414,687
14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:123.4
14-day change:-53.5
Total COVID-19 deaths:69,125
14-day rise:4,934
  • In a landmark ruling, a German court has legally deemed actions by Assad’s regime in Syria as structural torture. People in his regime may now be convicted of crimes against humanity in Germany. Separately, Baden-Württemberg, one of Germanys biggest and economically most important states, will vote on a new state parliament on 14 March. This election will be watched closely as a first indicator regarding the general election later this year. Further, Merkel and the 16 state ministers will meet next Tuesday (3 March) to discuss further actions regarding management of the Covid-19 crisis.
  • According to a recent study, Germany clinics’ monthly revenues in January fell by 20% compared to last year. Therefore, several hospitals that have been indispensable in the Covid-19 crisis have now closed down. Chief executive of the Deutsche Krankenhausgesellschaft (DKG) has thus demanded liquidity aid for all hospitals across the country in order to avoid further closures.
  • Cancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to ramp up the vaccination strategy and pushes the idea of a broad “quick-testing” strategy. Germany is at the verge of a third wave, but vaccines are showing first positive effects regarding the age group 80+.

Politics

  • According to a ‘historic’ ruling by a German intermediate court, actions by the Assad’s regime in Syria can lawfully be interpreted as systematic torture. This has the effect that individuals who participated in the crimes of the Assad regime can now be convicted for these crimes in Germany. The trial for one individual accused of committing crimes against humanity in the German court will soon begin. This landmark ruling will likely lead to further people standing in front of German courts accused for the crimes they have committed in Syria.
  • On Sunday 14 March, one of Germanys biggest states, Baden-Württemberg, is set to vote on a new state parliament. This state is governed by a coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Greens (Grüne), with Winfried Kretschmann from the Greens having served as state prime minister since 2016. This election will be the first of six state elections and the general election over the course of this year and is therefore an important test for all parties – especially because the Greens and the CDU will be the most-watched parties in the general election in September. Latest polls from the state show the Greens leading with 31%, only a few points ahead of the CDU with 28%.
  • The sixteen state prime ministers will meet with Angela Merkel, Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn (CDU) and several other key government officials on 3 March to discuss further strategies in the battle against Covid-19. It is expected that restrictions will be loosened as public pressure on this matter is constantly growing. Whilst Angela Merkel wants to keep most restrictions in place, the state ministers reportedly feel the pressure from their base and are arguing to re-open certain areas of social life. Additionally, the government has announced a debate of a general long-term opening strategy, as this has been repeatedly demanded by opposition parties and experts over the course of the last months.

 

Health

  • The financial situation of German hospitals continues to be alarming. According to a recent study that was conducted by the Deutsche Krankenhausgesellschaft (German non-profit interest and umbrella organisation of top and state associations of hospital operators), monthly revenues in January fell by €1.8 billion, or around 20% compared to January 2020. Over 40% of German hospitals did not receive any compensatory payment.
  • Only clinics that are in regions with over 70 new Covid-19 cases per 100 000 inhabitants in the past seven days are currently eligible for aid. While fortunately this is only the case for roughly a quarter of the clinics, they continue to suffer from revenue shortfalls. The fact that the federal state can no longer grant these regions financial support only worsens the situation.
  • Therefore, several hospitals that have been indispensable through the Covid-19 crisis now have to close down. The chief executive of the DKG thus demands liquidity aid for all hospitals across the country in order to avoid clinics having to close down.

 

Covid-19

  • Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to ramp up the national vaccination campaign. She made her opinions public in an interview she gave on 24 February - just before her bi-weekly meeting with the sixteen state prime ministers to discuss further actions on 3 March. She sets the goal at 7.5 – 9.5 million vaccinations per week. To achieve this, she acknowledges, it will be crucial to integrate resident doctors into the process. Vaccination centres alone will not be able to reach such high expectations. The challenge in this regard is Germany’s enormous legitimation problem regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. Numbers vary from source to source, though it is thought hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of AstraZeneca vaccines are stored unused in the vaccination centres. Merkel was determined when she announced that, as long as vaccines are rare goods, there will be no option to choose between different companies. Another key-point approach in the vaccination campaign will be widespread testing. Both she and almost all state prime ministers support the idea of “quick-testing,” meaning that self-tests for everyone will be sold in supermarkets soon.
  • Germany is right on the verge of a third Covid-19 wave. Reason for this is the British mutation B.1.1.7. By the end of January, 6% of Covid-19 cases could be traced back to the mutation. On 14 February it was already 22%, and experts estimate that fresh statistics will come close to 50%. Besides theoretical statistics, evidence can be found in the once again rising number of cases. Between 11 January and 14 February, the incidence (infections per 100,000 people) dropped from 173.5 down to 59.9. Since mid-February, this trend has stopped and is slowly growing again.
  • The vaccination effort is showing early signs of success within the age 85+ group, which is the only group with a decreasing incidence since mid-February, proving that vaccines are effective and can make a large difference. People older than 65 will not be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on the suggestion of the “Ständige Impfkommission” (STIKO) that came to the conclusion that evidence of its protection is not confirmed for people above the age of 65.

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