Is Germany Losing the Fight Against the Winter Surge?
The once international success story is now in a second full lockdown and at risk of being overburden by Covid-19
Angela Merkel is not known for being emotional. For the past 15 years, the German chancellor has, quite regularly, maintained a reputation as a calm, analytic, and reserved leader. This wasn’t the Merkel who spoke in front of the German parliament on December 9.
Merkel was pleading with lawmakers and with the public. She was emotional, her voice changed tones, she used her hands — a lot — her eyes were full of sadness. “I’m really am sorry, from the bottom of my heart,” she said, pointing at her chest, “but if the price we pay is 590 deaths a day, then that is unacceptable in my view.” The crowd cheered. I can’t remember ever seeing Merkel this way, many people don’t.
A week passed; Germany recorded 952 deaths in a day and went into a second full lockdown.
After the first Covid-19 wave subsided, Germany emerged a winner. An effective government with clear guidelines, a world-class contact tracing system, a quick and strict lockdown, and wide cooperation from the public — all led to Germany declaring that “the outbreak is under control” as soon as mid-April.
The numbers were remarkably low. Germany, a country with over 83 million people, recorded 103 deaths per million citizens. Much lower than 430 deaths per million in France, 554 deaths per million in Italy, and 579 deaths per million in the U.K. German hospitals weren’t overrun, moreover, Germany actually treated Covid-19 patients from Italy and France whose hospitals were on the brink of collapsing.
The summer was relatively quiet. The German people, and leaders, were hoping that the worst was long behind them. They were wrong.