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English as a foreign language

Living as a German in an increasingly English-speaking world

Articles from July 2020

2020-07-10: Why Germany has so far fared rather well in the COVID-19 crisis

Why has Germany so far handled the COVID-19 crisis rather well? A team of experts lead by the Johns Hopkins University (yes, that one) has been assessing countries’ readiness for a pandemic for years. High scores went to the US and the UK (which have obviously bungled the crisis pretty badly), with Germany only getting middling scores.

What went wrong? The panel looked at the wrong parameters. The number and degree of education of doctors, how much hospital and test lab capacity there is, that was ranked highly. All important, of course, but those may not be the deciding factors, after all.

Italy had it bad – they were ransacked early on. Other countries watched and took notice. And action. (Or not.) Back in January, German labs worked with their Chinese counterparts to develop test kits. And when the shit finally hit the fan really hard in March, they were prepared. The UK and the US didn’t think much of the crisis at first, losing valuable time. The US had test capacity, but no tests. They had slept through the alarm really, really badly.

Another very important factor: the welfare state. Germany has a working infrastructure to support people in need. Health insurance, unemployment insurance, government subsidies for furloughed or short-timed workers: all in place and ready to go at a moment’s notice. The UK doesn’t even have a concept of “short-time work”, much less government subsidies for it.

That’s one reason why lockdown measures were so much more successful in Germany than elsewhere. People weren’t so afraid.

Also, no special legal infrastructure was necessary to put lockdown measures in place. Germany already had an “infection protection law” in place; it only needed to be applied. And Germany has a decentralized government. There are local authorities that can coordinate measures locally. Some countries don’t have that luxury. England, for example, doesn’t have local government structures the way Germany has. France, even worse.

This is excerpted from this.

I personally would add: strong and credible leadership is also key. Sadly lacking in some parts of the world. And it shows.