German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced tough new measures from Monday, November 2, in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. But will the German people be compliant?
— Christian Lindner (@c_lindner) October 27, 2020
For many in Germany, the question of individual freedom is at least as important as a thriving economy. Leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is the largest opposition party in the German federal parliament, have been among those the most widely critical of further restrictions.
“No measures — including lockdowns — have had a demonstrable influence on the infection rate, but the lockdown fantasies of government politicians are becoming increasingly absurd,” the AfD parliamentary leader Alexander Gauland said in a statement on Tuesday.
Read more: False alarm? Confusion about EU COVID-19 threat levels
Germany has seen anti-lockdown protests in recent months, with some groups protesting under the banner of “Querdenker” — people who “think outside the box.” A demonstration in Berlin at the weekend coincided with an arson attack on the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health agency — although no suspects have yet been identified.
Protesters espousing conspiracy theories and far-right groups have joined the demonstrations, drawing criticism and ridicule from the left and more liberal quarters. But surveys show that there is a growing number of people critical of restrictions, who believe that fighting the virus should be a question of personal responsibility. The most recent survey shows that a narrow majority of Germans agree with this view: 54% compared to 43% who say authorities should put restrictions in place.
Berlin vs. the states
As Germany is governed by a federal system, one of the key questions during the pandemic response has been how much of a say the central government in Berlin should have, as health policy is the mandate of the 16 states. This has led to a “patchwork” of regulations across the country, with travel bans or curfews in some places and no restrictions in others.
The most recent survey shows over two thirds (68%) of people want regulations to be unified across the 16 states. Additionally, 78% said they wanted the states to “work more closely together” in pandemic response.
There have been calls for the parliaments at federal and state levels to be involved in decision-making, with MPs from all political parties speaking out against decision-making behind closed doors.
A European role model?
Despite the increasing infection rates, Germany still stands on good ground compared to other European countries. Even with the high daily infection figures seen in late October, in terms of cases per 100,000 inhabitants Germany remains well below rates in Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Belgium.
France and the UK are among the countries that have introduced partial or localized lockdowns in recent weeks in an effort to curb the number of cases. Germany is hoping to take action before cases reach the rates seen there, in two of the worst-affected nations in the world.
Germany’s relatively strong acceptance of measures up until now may have been key in the low infection and death rates. But surveys show that 50% of Germans believe that efforts by police and authorities to enforce the restrictions have not gone far enough.
The challenge is to make sure the German people accept the new measures — and to enforce them. Relying on goodwill and compliance, as the chancellor called for in her most recent video podcast, may not go far enough.
Source: Dw News