In many European countries, including Switzerland, Austria and Germany, the number of new corona infections and the number of Covid-19 diseases requiring medical treatment have again risen heavily. Those responsible in hospitals, but also doctors working in private practice, say that they will soon no longer be able to cope with the upcoming Covid-19 treatments. The correction of this development, which is necessary in every respect, is impeded by various factors. Fortunately, there are also initiatives that encourage people and make them feel confident.
One of these hindering factors are, from time to time, the media. Guidelines such as “satisfy donors”, “ideological standards”, “generate attention” or “increase circulation/rating” can run contrary to the goal of containing a pandemic. Media, which are primarily concerned with principles such as those mentioned above, do not create trust and do not help people to find their way safely. Anyway, there is still an awareness of responsibility in the media world. This became apparent in spring and can, it is to be hoped, prove itself again in the current situation. This can be seen already now.
Statements that are one hundred percent based on the will to prevent new infections and other diseases of Covid-19 are helpful in fighting pandemics. A good current example is the “appeal of the Swiss youth political organisation of the parties BDP, CVP, EPP, FDP and GLP to the young” of 24 October 2020 (see box “Together we can ensure that the virus will not have the last word”).
What can I do to prevent infection?
Everyone is concerned with the question: What can I do to prevent corona infection and Covid-19 disease? After all the answer is simple. The best protection so far is to follow the known rules (keep a sufficient distance, wear a protective mask correctly, pay attention to hygiene) and – to reduce the remaining risk – limit contacts to what is necessary.
It would seem that a country like China has the agenda of fighting the corona virus in its own country resolutely and with substantial resources so that further infections and diseases can be avoided as far as possible. The responsible authorities in the eastern Chinese city of Qingdao, a metropolis with nine million inhabitants, have tested all city dwellers around two weeks ago within a few days after a few new infections were found in the city. This ensured that there would be no further infections in the city. You do not have to take this example as a model, but the differences with our countries are striking. While here are complaints ranging from corona is equal to false alarm to mandatory mask-wearing is equal to restriction of freedom to pandemic control is equal to economic ruin, elsewhere the fight against the pandemic has absolute priority – not against the population, but with their consent. Not least in the economic interest, as China’s economic recovery seems to demonstrate (see box "Health and economy").
Slovakia is the first European country that wants all of its adult citizens to be tested.
More protection against infections does not mean lockdown
The assertion that only an economic lockdown can prevent the proliferation of infections is misleading. In recent months, most companies and businesses have developed precautionary measures that provide good infection protection – if the rules are observed.
Obviously, this is difficult for some, especially in the private sector and during leisure time. Relearning and readjusting for the time of the pandemic has nothing to do with lockdown. Even the latest statements by the President of the World Medical Association, Ulrich Montgomery, should not be understood as capitulation. In an interview with the “Rheinische Post” on 23 October, he had said that with an infection rate of 20,000 per day in Germany (currently, as of 30 October, it is already at a peak of over 18,000) there has to be a new lockdown. It will then no longer be possible for the health authorities to trace and interrupt the infection chains; then “the situation gets out of control”. Officials are already saying that in Germany now for 75% of those who were tested positive for the virus it is not possible to determine where and how the infection occurred.
It is also true that in particular we citizens have it in our hands to bring the situation back under control. Every single one.
Give priority to security
Of course, the knowledge of how to prevent infection is not yet one hundred percent. This makes it all the more necessary to increase knowledge and to continuously improve precautionary measures. And is it not reasonable to give priority to safety in cases of doubt?
There are now enough shocking descriptions of affected patients, but also of doctors and nursing staff about the course of disease in all age groups, with and without pre-existing conditions. Everyone is well advised to behave in such a way that they do not infect themselves, but also in such a way that they cannot infect others.
The state authorities and the responsible politicians in our countries, as we have been able to observe in recent weeks and months, have come under enormous pressure. Lobby groups for – quite understandable – material interests and advocates of a questionable concept of freedom have played a part in this. Theories according to which the state measures would have the primary goal of establishing a dictatorship with total control have attracted a vociferous minority that is receiving much attention. The double-edged notion that “criticism” is the spice of the democratic soup has also contributed to the uncertainty. A film like “Unerhört” (Unheard-of/Outrageous), which recently premiered in Zurich, is more likely to further fuel the polarisation that already exists anyway, and will most likely contribute nothing to the actual solution of the problem.
Trust in government agencies need not be a disadvantage
Thereby it is misjudged that it can serve a good cause if citizens have confidence in the state and its officials, and if these officials justify this confidence by honestly and openly assuming responsibility, providing guidance and helping to encourage and strengthen people.
Studies show that those countries with a good, trust-based relationship between the government and those governed are better able to get through the pandemic than countries where this is not the case. This need not even depend on the form of government, as is evident in some Asian countries.
Freedom and State Power are not opposites
But freedom and state power are not contradictions either. On the contrary, the free and democratic republic under the rule of law is the state that is at all able to secure freedom and prevent a “law of the jungle”. It does so by means of the monopoly on legitimate use of force, by means of the state guarantee of the basic and human rights, by means of principles of the rule of law, which include the binding of all state action to the law and the guarantee of legal recourse for every citizen, by means of the separation of powers and control of powers, horizontally between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, but also vertically through a federal order, and by means of republican representation of the entire people – ideally flanked by direct democracy.
Freedom does not mean despotism and arbitrariness, but responsible personal development in the knowledge of human social nature. The German Federal Constitutional Court had already stated this in 1954 in its interpretation of the concept of freedom. “The dignity of the person”, as it says in a commentary on Article 1 in the German Basic Law, “consists in the fact that man as a spiritual-moral being is designed to determine himself in freedom and self-confidence and to have an effect in the environment“. “Spiritual-moral being” means that man can recognise and distinguish between justice and injustice, right and wrong, good and evil, and can choose the path of justice, right and good. It serves the common good when he does so, the common good is impaired when he decides otherwise. The former corresponds to his social nature.
Freedom, as Karl Albrecht Schachtschneider stated in his fundamental work “Res publica res populi. Grundlegung einer Allgemeinen Rechtslehre” (Res publica res populi. Groundwork of a general legal doctrine), is never only freedom from something, but always also freedom to something – in the sense of moral law1. Chapter headings such as “Distinction between state and society contrary to republican law” or “Proximity and distance of the republican to the liberalist concept of freedom” underline this. The protection of life and physical integrity are basic rights that obligate not only the state but also the citizens.
The emotional basis for human solidarity is existing
Citizens would like to see officials who, as in spring 2020, take an honest stand again, give clear guidance and at the same time express that a pandemic can only be fought if everyone works together as equals.
History cannot be repeated, and it is also a good thing that no one is trying to do so. Even if the cacophony has increased today, we must not forget that we know much more about the virus, about the diseases associated with it and about the ways to protect ourselves today than we did six months ago. This knowledge must be used for the benefit of mankind. That is why the main concern now is once again to prevent new infections and further diseases. The emotional basis of human solidarity, which has done so much good in spring in the first response to the pandemic, is in accordance with human nature. This is why it has not been gone and can still be fully effective six months later. •
1 cf. the term “Sittengesetz” (moral law) as well understandable introduction https://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Moral+Law
“Last week, economists from important companies and associations spoke out clearly against further lockdowns. Apparently, the idea behind the arguments is that there is a conflict of goals between the health sector and the economy. This notion is problematic because empirical studies and theoretical considerations (with all the uncertainties we have to live with in the pandemic) show that such a conflict of goals may exist in the short term, but not in the medium and long term. A healthy economy requires healthy people.”
Martin Kolmar, Professor and Director of the Institute for Business Ethics at the University of St. Gallen,
in an article for the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” of 26 October 2020
(Translation Current Concerns)
“Is there a conflict of interests between health protection and economy?
I do not see this conflict. If a virus spreads, the economy will not thrive. The idea that foregoing state mandated restrictions will help the economy is an illusion. Evidence from the Spanish flu a hundred years ago shows that where early and decisive measures were taken, the economic damage was least in the end.”
Clemens Fuest, head of the Munich Ifo Institute,
in an interview with the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” on 24 October 2020
(Translation Current Concerns)
km. On 28 October 2020, both, the Swiss Federal Council and the German Chancellor and the Prime Ministers of the German federal states adopted new measures to contain the corona pandemic and presented them to the public. With the help of the adopted measures a lockdown like in spring should be prevented in both countries.
The tenor of both packages of measures is the significant reduction of leisure contacts, more in Germany than in Switzerland. In Switzerland discos and dance halls will be closed until further notice, but restaurants and bars may remain open from 6 am to 11 pm under protective conditions. In Germany, all catering businesses will be closed, except for the possibility of offering food and drink for consumption at home.
There shall also be more restrictions in Germany for events and private trips. For the next time there are no longer any overnight offers for tourist purposes. All institutions and facilities that can be allocated to recreational activities are to be closed. In Switzerland the number of participants in such leisure events is severely restricted.
In addition, both countries have extended the obligation to wear protective masks in public and at work.
For the time being, the measures in Germany are limited until the end of November 2020; in Switzerland there are no deadlines.
Kindergartens and schools are to remain open in both countries. Retail and wholesale trade will also remain open, provided it complies with strict protection rules. The same applies to all other businesses, but they should enable more work from home.
While the Swiss Federal Council has not made any financial commitments for the affected businesses, financial aid totalling 10 billion euros has been promised to the affected German businesses.
Stricter state sanctions for violations of the new rules are explicitly mentioned only in Germany.
Above all, however, both countries are appealing to the insight of their citizens.
“The corona pandemic is causing great damage and above all, is costing human lives. Additionally, many people, especially young people, have lost their jobs or are struggling to find a job. Nobody knows what course the crisis will take. Therefore, it is important, in this worsening situation, that we young people act responsibly and act in solidarity with both young and old people!
Government mandates can achieve much in this crisis, but government cannot force citizens to act responsibly and with solidarity. It is up to us young people to comply with the important hygiene measures and, above all, to wear masks and keep our distance. The virus can strike everyone.
Therefore, the Youth Parties all appeal to the young people to follow the following rules of hygiene and conduct seriously. Only together can we keep the corona virus in check.
These vital measures are particularly important now, because they protect human life at a time when case numbers are rising rapidly. Together we can ensure that the virus does not have the last word and that the situation does not worsen. Let us act together responsibly and for the well-being of the community – now more than ever!”
Source: https://www.jcvp.ch/2020/10/24/appell-der-schweizerischen-jungparteien-an-die-jungen/ of 24 October 2020
(Translation Current Concerns)
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