Daily Host Nation Stories for May 12, 2020
Speeders reported to the police on the A81 in the Böblingen district
Ludwigsburg police headquarters took speed measurements on Friday on the A81 in the Böblingen district. Several speeders caught in Police’s speed trap
As reported by the police, the officers carried out speed measurements on the A81 between the Böblingen/Hulb and Ehingen junctions between 3 and 8.30 pm. During these measurements, they discovered 200, sometimes considerable, speeding violations, which will result in revoking of one’s drivers privileges for every fifth driver.
With a permitted maximum speed of 120 km/h, the sad front-runner was travelling at 220 km/h. During a speed measurement at the Gärtringen junction in the direction of Singen, the officials discovered five violations, which will also lead into revoking one’s driver’s privileges and heavy fine. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 11)
More than 80 new corona cases in slaughterhouse near Pforzheim
In a slaughterhouse in Birkenfeld near Pforzheim, more than 80 more people have tested positive for the corona virus. This brings the number of employees who are or were infected with Covid-19 to approximately 400, said a spokeswoman for the district administration office in the Enz district of Enz in Baden-Wuerttemberg. This is almost a quarter of the total of about 1100 employees. (NTV, May 12)
Laschet demands easing of the quarantine rules after travelling abroad
North Rhine-Westphalia’s Prime Minister Armin Laschet urges further relaxation of the corona restrictions. In the Düsseldorf “Rheinische Post” newspaper, the politician spoke out in favor of relaxing the quarantine rules for returnees from European countries. The explanation he gave was the end of the lockdown in France. (Focus, May 12)
Federal Education Centre: Taking action against conspiracy theories
The German Federal Agency for Civic Education (BPB) wants to take stronger action against conspiracy theories about the corona pandemic. Thomas Krüger, president of the BPB, told the editorial network Germany that “a political education is needed that defends itself.” This educational work must make it clear “that the hate-speakers in the telegram groups and the YouTube videos with their simple explanations and the apparently clearly defined criminals” must not be believed.
Thomas Krüger, President of the BPB, went on to say: “As different as the conspiracy theories may be, they all share the same goal of providing simple answers to complex questions. Especially in the current situation, these irresponsible myths with their good-evil schemes are leading to radicalization of followers.”
The interests of the demonstrators were different. On the one hand, they are certainly “simply financially concerned or affected by the situation”. On the other hand, there are “scattered leftists, opponents of vaccination, esotericists and last but not least militant neo-Nazis”. There is “the danger that the radical conspiracy theorists and also right-wing extremists will further extend their dominance and radicalize other participants.
Most recently, demonstrators had mobilized nationwide against federal and state corona restrictions – for example in Berlin, Stuttgart and in Gera in Thuringia, where the Thuringian FDP state chairman Thomas L. Kemmerich marched along, triggering strong criticism. (Focus, May 12)
RKI: R-factor not alone decisive in assessing the situation, border openings
According to the Robert Koch Institute, the reproduction factor “R” is not the only decisive factor in the spread of coronavirus in order to assess the current situation. Also important are the number of new infections in a daily comparison, the number of positive tests as well as the workload of the healthcare system, said RKI Vice President Lars Schaade. In Germany, the R-factor is currently just over 1, which means that, in purely mathematical terms, one infected person infects more than another. When the number of cases is low, individual outbreaks such as those at the slaughter houses quickly altered the rate of infection. The Robert Koch Institute considers the opening of borders in Europe to be possible under certain conditions. If there is a similarity of epidemiological situations in neighboring countries, such an opening of borders could be justified, says RKI Vice President Lars Schaade. (Robert Koch Institute, May 12)
Ryanair plans almost 1,000 daily flights as of July 1
Europe’s largest low-cost airline Ryanair plans to increase its flight operations significantly again this summer. As of July 1, 40 percent of regular flights are to take place again, the company announced in Dublin on Tuesday. The requirement is that governments ease travel restrictions on flights within the EU and that safety measures are introduced at airports to protect health. According to its own statements, Ryanair would then offer almost 1,000 flights a day, covering 90 percent of the routes the airline operated before the corona crisis.
Meanwhile, the company’s shortened flight plan with only 30 take-offs a day is in effect until the end of June. Passengers and crew will be required to wear masks on flights. One of the measures Ryanair is taking to make flying safe in times of pandemic is banning of people standing in line in front of the aircraft restroom. Passengers should contact the flight attendants if necessary. They should also fill in forms with information on the duration and location of their stay. The data will be forwarded to the EU so that quarantine regulations could be monitored. (RTL, May 12)
Fewer car accidents in the corona crisis
During the restrictions in the corona pandemic, fewer accidents occurred on Germany’s roads. This is shown by figures from car insurers, air rescue services and the police. According to the Allianz insurance company, a significant decrease in traffic accidents can be seen after the corona restrictions, and the Huk-Coburg insurance company also reports significantly fewer claims. In the R+V insurance group, the number of motor vehicle claims in April fell by 20 percent compared to the same month last year.
From January to the beginning of May, the ADAC air rescuers were deployed around 1,300 times in traffic accidents, according to a spokesperson. That was about 200 fewer missions in traffic accidents than in the same time frame the year before – a decrease of almost 15 percent. In April, the DRF air rescue service also recorded a decrease in emergency deployments due to traffic accidents: rescuers were deployed 317 times nationwide.
Overall, there was less activity on the roads in the period from mid-March to the end of April, as data from the ADAC show. Since the end of April, however, more vehicles are on the road again: the number of traffic jams increased compared to the end of March. For example, while the experts counted 467 traffic jams on the motorways on the last Monday in March, the figure on the last Monday in April was 905. Previously, the number of traffic jams and also their respective lengths had decreased significantly with the start of the restrictions in mid-March. (RTL, May 12)
One million unsold cars – a huge wave of bankruptcies is approaching
An enormous amount of pre-financed but unsold new cars is piling up at German car dealers. The industry hopes for sales bonuses – but a wave of bankruptcies is unavoidable.
The German Association of Motor Trades and Repairs (ZDK) spoke to the magazine “Auto Motor & Sport” of an imminent wave of bankruptcies in the car trade. “According to ZDK President Jürgen Karpinski, many cars that were pre-financed by the dealers are currently standing unsold in the yards of the car dealerships as a result of the lockdown,” said “Auto Motor & Sport” – the number of vehicles involved amounts to around one million.
They are now even harder to get started without buying incentives. “After this hard economic phase, many companies are now economically struggling ” said Karpinski.
Federal government wants to decide on premiums in June. However, following a conference with the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) and various manufacturers last Tuesday, the Federal Government does not intend to decide until June whether there should be any purchase premiums, and if so, then which ones will be available. If there are any bonuses, the focus is expected to be on environmentally friendly drive systems, especially electric vehicles and economical petrol and diesel cars that meet the current Euro 6d emissions standard. Environmental associations and also some economic experts reject purchase premiums for cars. The Minister Presidents of the states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony, where a large number of jobs in the car industry are at risk due to the crisis, have spoken out in support of bonuses. (Focus, May 12)
German government approves 750 million euro for vaccines
Berlin – The German government is providing up to 750 million euros for the development and production of a corona vaccine. This is “an unprecedented special program”, said Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek on Monday in Berlin. The program complements Germany’s international efforts in vaccine development.
As Karliczek said, the program is based on two pillars. The first pillar is development, the second is production. During development, the special program should make it possible to conduct studies with a larger number of test persons than is usually the case. This would promise faster progress.
This way, medical personnel or people from the risk groups, such as the elderly or people who have previously suffered from cancer, could be involved at an early stage. Participation in studies is exclusively on a voluntary basis.
With the second pillar of the program, preparations should already be made now so that large quantities can be produced as soon as a vaccine is found. This could involve the procurement of ingredients or contracts with service providers who would then fill the vaccine.
“An effective vaccine is the key to returning to normality,” said Karliczek. “We still shouldn’t expect miracles,” she warned at the same time. People must also be prepared for setbacks. “By mid-2021 at the earliest,” she said, “vaccines would be available that could be used on a large scale. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 11)
Person hit and killed Monday by S-Bahn (regional train) in Stuttgart.
A person was hit by a regional train in Stuttgart-Sommerrain on Monday morning and killed. The railway line between Bad Cannstatt and Waiblingen is currently closed.
According to a spokesperson for the federal police, the person was hit by the regional train in the Stuttgart-Sommerrain area shortly after 11 a.m. An emergency call was received by the police around 11:20 am. Federal and state police forces as well as rescue services rushed to the scene of the accident. An emergency doctor was only able to determine the death of the person. The criminal investigation department has begun its investigations and now assumes that a suicide took place.
Because of the accident, the railway line between Bad Cannstatt and Waiblingen was fully closed until about 1:45 pm. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 12)
Antibody test for 25 Euro- Have I already overcome Covid-19?
There was a scratching in the throat combined with a slight cough a few weeks ago. “Could I possibly have had Covid-19 disease already?” many people in Germany ask themselves. Particularly in view of the often mild courses of the disease, nobody can say how high the number of undetected cases of coronavirus patients is. The Tübingen-based biotech company Cegat wants to create certainty and has been offering an antibody test for everyone since Monday. “The tests are quick, safe and available at a fair price of 25 euros,” promises company boss Dirk Biskup. In terms of reliability, he wants to compete with the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, which plans to deliver three million tests to healthcare institutions in Germany in May.
A long queue has formed, the waiting people are not sitting in their cars but standing in front of a mobile doctor’s office in a continuous rain at the specified distance. They even put up with one and a half hours of wetness in order to be tested on the site without any complications. After one to three days, the findings should arrive at home by mail.
Tubes with barcode to go- The last in line is a 51-year-old man who suffered a severe flu in February. “I want to know exactly what it was,” he says – and is happy about the possibility of a quick test. “If it comes back positive, I will still wear a mask and keep my distance,” he says. “I’m not sure if I’m completely immune.” He rejects the offer of a company employee who walks along the queue with a large cardboard box and hands out test tubes with a barcode to take away. He has to go to his family doctor to have a few milliliters of blood taken, which is then sent to Cegat’s laboratory.
The walk-in clinic is open all day and the medical staff gives a friendly welcome to the customers. Those who have disinfected their hands must give their name, address and date of birth, then some blood is drawn from one of the five separate areas and examined in the laboratory opposite. “We manage 1000 tests a day, and more if necessary,” says company boss Biskup. But the huge rush surprises him. “We never expected so many people,” he says and emphasizes that no one has to stand in line in the rain, since the tubes can also be sent by mail if necessary.
The company boss has already survived Covid-19: Biskup is a convalescent. The 49-year-old and his wife Saskia Biskup, who is also part of the management, have already survived Covid-19. One and a half days of slight fever, then it was over, Biskup says. He has kept to the prescribed 14-day quarantine. His antibody test was positive, “I have no problem now with visiting my 81-year-old mother again,” says the managing director, and is pleased. Theoretically, there is still a tiny residual risk that must be clear to everyone, “because no test offers 100 percent safety”.
Biskup is keen to shed more light on the high number of unreported cases of coronavirus patients. The head of Cegat assumes that the number of patients suffering from coronavirus is at least ten times higher. Officially, there are around 170,000 infected people in Germany, but Biskup estimates the number to be two million. As a trial, he tested his 200 employees and found seven who had antibodies in their blood, i.e. a non-representative 3.5 percent.
How useful antibody tests are is not always agreed by the medical profession. If the test comes from a reputable provider and is certified accordingly, he can certainly recommend it, says infectiologist Peter Kremsner. “If the result is positive, one can assume that it is very likely to be immune to Covid-19,” said the head of the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University Hospital of Tübingen. “Such a test has a calming effect and enables many people to participate in life again without any worries.” However, Kremsner warns against the flood of cheap tests without sufficient accuracy, such as those offered on the Internet. They often show false positive or false negative results. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 11)
Kretschmann under pressure
When the corona pandemic reached Baden-Württemberg in mid-March, there was great uncertainty among the population and in politics. How should one deal with the new danger? The admonitory words of Minister President Winfried Kretschmann on the need for extreme caution were widely heard. In the meantime the tide has turned. Heads of government in other states are pushing for easing of corona measures, the opposition in the Stuttgart state parliament is denouncing Kretschmann’s corona crisis management, and the Greens and CDU in the state government are not quite on the same page when it comes to corona.
At the beginning of the corona crisis, the opposition found it difficult to attract public attention – the focus of interest was the work of the government. Those days are now over. Last Wednesday, the state parliament summoned Kretschmann to the plenum after the Minister President’s Conference to hear first-hand the latest corona plans. SPD faction leader Andreas Stoch had given the impetus for this, and all other factions except the Greens supported this request with much applause.
Faction leader Hans-Ulrich Rülke reproached Kretschmann for not asking questions in response to urgent answers and for being the brakeman in the circle of the federal states when schools and restaurants are opened. “He obviously has the intention to go down in the history of the corona pandemic as the last Mohican of the shutdown.” Politician Stoch criticized that Kretschmann’s credo that one must drive on sight when dealing with the virus, increasingly sounds to the citizens like only poking in the fog. “Our people now finally need a plan to find the way to a new normality.”
Kretschmann presented the plan, but only after the conference of prime ministers. For Kretschmann was still counting on joint action by the federal and state governments, even though his former ally, Bavaria’s Minister President Markus Söder, had already roped himself off and went his own way of opening up.
Whether it was Economics Minister Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut, Tourism Minister Guido Wolf or Education Minister Susanne Eisenmann: Kretschmann’s coalition partner also put pressure on the government to ease on the corona ordinances. The CDU sees itself as an advocate for the economy, which is suffering badly from the lockdown. “Health protection is our highest and most important concern,” explained Wolfgang Reinhart, head of the CDU state parliament faction. “But at the same time, the health of the economy must continue to be ensured.” Kretschmann replied in an interview with the “Mannheimer Morgen” and the “Heilbronner Stimme” that as the head of government he must pay attention to all areas. “It takes someone who is also on the brakes sometimes. And that’s me.”
Behind the scenes there is therefore a fierce struggle for concrete steps and deadlines to ease on corona measures. The details for new corona regulations are being worked out by a joint steering group in which the most important ministries are represented.
At the same time, public opposition to the corona restrictions is growing. Over the weekend, several thousand people took to the streets in Baden-Wuerttemberg to demonstrate against the regulations. And a survey by the “Schwäbische Zeitung” newspaper and the online opinion research institute Civey showed that the people of Baden-Wuerttemberg are less satisfied with the corona crisis management of their state government than the people in Bavaria.
A survey published by Infratest Dimap for Südwestrundfunk at the beginning of May showed that the Greens in the southwest were ahead of the CDU as usual – but the Christian Democrats have clearly caught up. Kretschmann himself, however, gained sympathy points during the crisis.
In a nationwide comparison, Baden-Wuerttemberg has the highest corona infection rate per 100,000 inhabitants after Bavaria. Many experts fear a second wave of infection. Therefore, there is reason to continue to be cautious with regard to corona. However, caution is something that is rarely rewarded in politics. When the feared peak of corona infection in the southwest did not occur at Easter, this already provoked critics of the lockdown. Kretschmann calls this the “precautionary paradox”: if the measures were effective, people would lose the insight to continue to adhere to measures.
However, political reckoning will only take place later – in the case of Baden-Württemberg in the state elections on March 14, 2021. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, May 12)