by Katja Hoyer
Monday, 21
March 2022
Dispatch
11:00

Germany lifts Covid restrictions — and people aren’t happy

Germans are anxious about their sudden freedom
by Katja Hoyer
Berlin, Germany. Credit: Getty

When I was in Germany last week, Covid restrictions were still in full swing. This became all too apparent when I bought a cup of coffee in a petrol station and then proceeded to the empty cafe area at the back to drink it. “Halt!” shouted the lady from behind the counter, “you can’t just sit there and drink coffee,” she added incredulously. “I need to see your ID and vaccination status!” Naturally, I had left my phone in the car and with it the NHS app. By the time I’d passed the checks, my coffee was cold.

This weekend, almost exactly two years after the first lockdown began, Germany lifted nearly all restrictions. It was the first day of spring. Many people were out and about, enjoying the glorious sunshine and a cup of coffee obtained without presenting papers.

But beneath the surface, tensions have been running high over the decision. In a heated parliamentary debate last Friday, the only party in the three-way coalition that defended the lifting of restrictions was the Free Liberals (FDP). Cynical voices have since wondered whether this was a deal the chancellor struck with their Finance Minister Christian Lindner — a key ally in Scholz’s expensive plans to upgrade Germany’s military.

The 16 states that comprise Germany’s federal system are also sharply critical. They have a transition period of just under two weeks before they must lift their restrictions. Then only covid ‘Hotspots’ may introduce localised measures. Such was the level of dissatisfaction with Berlin’s lack of consultation with state leaders that the minister president of the State of Hessen even called it the “nadir in the relationship between the federal government and the states”.

What’s more, two-thirds of Germans still feel that it was too early for ‘Freedom Day’. The public and many medical experts are still concerned about the record number of new infections with well over 100,000 new cases each day. Dirk Brockmann, who leads on some of the modelling and official statistics in Germany, warns that, “we are currently in the middle of the rise up to the second peak of the Omicron wave”.

But rising infections are unlikely to overwhelm the health system. Tobias Welte, director of a clinic in Hanover, estimates that over 80% of his ‘Covid patients’ have checked in for unrelated reasons and only tested positive as part of routine checks, skewing the figures. Indeed, intensive care admissions have been in decline since December last year and continued to fall as Omicron spread.

Politically, Scholz should be able to see out any danger. Nothing is eaten as hot as it is cooked, as they say in Germany. A transition period of two weeks is more than enough time for anger and anxiety to subside. Germany has its hands full with the war in Ukraine, its u-turn in defence and energy policy and a looming petrol crisis among other things. As the restrictions are lifted in each state, attention will return to more pressing matters.

Germany has broken the link between transmission and serious illness, it just doesn’t believe it yet.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
17 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mary Bruels
Mary Bruels
8 months ago

We see similar reluctance in the US in the states that have had the strict lockdowns and “show us your vaccination papers”. Meanwhile in states like Florida, life goes on maskless and without hospitals overwhelmed with Covid patients. Some people are still drinking the kool-aid and think we are foolish. We think they are the foolish ones having succumbed to fear driven by politicians and a Public Health Service that has become politicized.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago
Reply to  Mary Bruels

Yep, Florida here. Moved down last year. Just got back from Publix; counted two masks. My husband calls the adult binkies.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
8 months ago

It’s about loss of face. So many people got caught up in the COVID fear-mongering that it would make them look silly if they simply put their masks away.

Drahcir Nevarc
Drahcir Nevarc
8 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

They look quite silly enough with their masks on.

David Simpson
David Simpson
8 months ago

I suppose it’s a kind of Stockholm syndrome

Andrea X
Andrea X
8 months ago
Reply to  David Simpson

Patricia Hearst comes to mind.

Adam Bacon
Adam Bacon
8 months ago
Reply to  David Simpson

It’s certainly more of a mental health problem now than a public health one

R Wright
R Wright
8 months ago

Germans loving authoritarianism? You don’t say.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis
8 months ago

Even though Los Angeles has finally lifted most restrictions, on my daily drive to the office I see people walking alone on the street wearing masks, when there is no one else around. But the most surprising is to see drivers wearing masks when there is no one else in the car. Wake up sheeple.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

They must be the CNN watchers.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Davis

These people are the saddest people in the world. I want nothing to do with them. Sick of their compliant stupidity.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
8 months ago

“we are currently in the middle of the rise up to the second peak of the Omicron wave”.

That says it all. In other words – the middle of the start part of the second wave of the 3rd (major) variant of the disease.
When would enough be enough for some people? Are people so blind that they cannot see the knock on effects of covid taking place? Do they want forever covid?
One of the many downsides of the situation in Ukraine is that many people will see that conflict as a major source of instability and economic difficulties – rather than the inter-national decision making that closed our economies for months on end

Last edited 8 months ago by A Spetzari
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
8 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

One could even say that the crisis in Ukraine was an indirect result of Covid.
In history the pattern seems to be that conflict tends to follow events that cause upheaval and upset the status quo. What was once unthinkable becomes not so unthinkable particularly if bad actors sense weakness and opportunity.

Sean Penley
Sean Penley
8 months ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

That sounds similar to a phrase a blogger i follow used frequently: COVID didn’t wreck the economy, the reactions of so many governments to Covid wrecked the economy.

The frustrating part is how even places that never went insane, or at least corrected course after a few weeks, remained affected by bad decisions elsewhere. Inability to get raw materials, depressed demand, etc. hammered even the places that didn’t buy the panic

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
8 months ago

When this nonsense first started, a local coffee shop left a notebook for patrons to “sign in” by leaving our names, addresses, phone numbers, and date of visit. I ignored it. One day, a waitress came to our table and insisted we sign in. I was tempted to write something very rude, but simply said “No” and walked out, never to return. No one has since asked me to show any form of ID or shot status since, and I wouldn’t if such a request was made. Why people meekly comply is beyond me.

Warren T
Warren T
8 months ago

Even prisoners who are let free after being jailed for several years feel out of place and confused.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
8 months ago

If anyone sits their “socialising” like that couple in the photo then they are deluded if they think they are enjoying themselves!
That is not living that is merely existing.