Public Policy Dynamics Germany #5
Health and Politics in Germany
|Total COVID-19 cases:||2,505,193|
|14-day total COVID-19 cases per 100,000:||137.39|
|Total COVID-19 deaths:||71,934|
- Two Members of Parliament from the governing Christian Democratic Union (CDU) of Germany stand accused in two separate, yet similar, corruption scandals. Both face allegations of self-enrichment and corruption for arranging deals to procure masks that earned their companies hundreds of thousands of euros.
- The German health care system has lost thousands of employees in the nursing sector since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Between late March and late July of 2020, the nursing staff in hospitals and nursing homes decreased by more than 9,000, according to the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency), exacerbating Covid-19 capacity pressures.
- Germany is at the verge of a third wave as Covid-19 cases rise again. While extending the lockdown until 28 March, Chancellor Angela Merkel and the 16 heads of government of the federal states have agreed on a five-step plan to relax some of the restrictions in place.
- Much of the German political news in early March has been dominated by a corruption scandal surrounding two CDU MPs, which is threatening to damage public trust in the two Members of Parliament and politics in general. The foundations of these developments are two separate, yet similar, corruption cases in the German Parliament. Both cases date back to the spring and early summer of 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic gained momentum and posed a challenge for Germany’s health care system.
- With medical masks were a rare good at the time, two politicians from the governing Christian Democrats and the Christian Socials (a regional party in Bavaria, and sister-party of the Christian Democrats) separately approached the federal Ministry of Health and arranged deals to procure masks from foreign manufacturers. In return, their respective companies earned hundreds of thousands of euros. Since the allegations arose in early March 2021, both Members of Parliament have faced huge pressure to resign from their mandate. While one of them (Nikolas Löbel, CDU) has resigned from his parliamentary mandate, the other (Georg Nüßlein, CSU) refused to do so, though Nüßlein has left the CSU. Both conservative parties and their fraction in Parliament face heavy criticism and have promised to further investigate misconduct regarding self-enrichment during the Covid-19 pandemic by its members.
- According to the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency), Germany is losing thousands of staff members in hospitals and nursing homes. The loss of 9,000 employees between late March and late July 2020 equates to 0.5 percent of the overall nursing staff in Germany; in total, about 1.8 million people are employed in this sector. Hospitals have been affected to a higher degree than nursing homes.
- According to the report, all 16 states are affected by this development, with Bremen being hit the hardest, losing almost 1.7 percent of its nursing workforce. This development could be correlating with the Covid-19 pandemic, since employee numbers in the nursing sector grew prior to the outbreak. The Left Party blames the German Government for a bad financial endowment of the national health and nursing care insurances.
- With rising Covid-19 cases, Germany stands at the verge of a third pandemic wave. After a decline in cases through mid-February, circulation is rising again. Between 14 February and 11 March, the incidence (infections per 100,000 people in 7 days) rose from 59.9 up to 69.1, even though no relaxation of restrictions had been implemented during this period; the rise has been attributed to new variants of the virus.
- Based on these developments, Chancellor Angela Merkel convened with the 16 heads of government of the federal states to extend the holding lockdown until 28 March. While the general lockdown has been extended, the conference agreed on a five-step plan to give citizens and the economy planning perspectives on potential liftings of the restrictions. From 8 March on, states and even single districts, have been allowed to re-open some businesses – hairdressers, book shops, garden centres and hardware stores – under strict hygiene restrictions. Moreover, up to five people from two households are allowed to meet. The different degrees, to which openings are allowed, depend on regional infection numbers. From 8 March, German Government is now financing one rapid-test per week for every citizen.
- While cases rise and restrictions relax, the German vaccination campaign still struggles to get underway. The slowness has been attributed to the still relatively small number of vaccination doses available in the country. On 11 March, about 6.9% of the population had received their first vaccination, with about 3.2% having received their second one.
- All have been administered in either centralised vaccination centers or by mobile vaccination teams. With a significant uptick in vaccination doses expected in the second quarter of 2021 (5 million doses per week in April), Chancellor Merkel and the heads of government of the federal states agreed on the importance to integrate the 75,000 doctor’s offices into the vaccination programme. This step will be amplified by the German health authority’s decision to approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people aged 65 and older, though discussion continues to revolve around the question of at what point doctors should be integrated into the process. While high-level politicians plan that step for mid-April, some experts do not expect that before May.