- Germany’s top coronavirus expert told The Guardian on Sunday that he worries about the country beginning to lift its lockdown.
- Christian Drosten said the country is now experiencing the “prevention paradox” — meaning it has been so successful at combating the virus that the public now thinks the government overreacted.
- “In Germany, people see that the hospitals are not overwhelmed, and they don’t understand why their shops have to shut,” Drosten said.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The German government’s leading coronavirus expert said he’s afraid the country’s success at fighting the coronavirus will cause complacency, which could fuel a second wave of infections.
Christian Drosten, director of Berlin’s Institute of Virology at the Charité Hospital, spoke to The Guardian on Sunday, days after the country began lifting some lockdown restrictions.
Germany’s lockdown started to lift on April 20, with the opening of smaller businesses like car dealerships, bike shops, and book stores. The country plans to start reopening schools on May 4.
Drosten said he felt like the government was being pressured to reopen, and that he feared that a blasé attitude toward the relatively tame outbreak in Germany could lead to a new burst of infections.
“At the moment, we are seeing half-empty ICUs in Germany,” he said. “This is because we started diagnostics early and on a broad scale, and we stopped the epidemic – that is, we brought the reproduction number below 1.”
The basic reproduction number, also known as R0, represents the average number of people a single patient is expected to infect and is a key figure to measuring countries’ outbreak. You can read Business Insider’s explainer to it here.
“Now, what I call the ‘prevention paradox’ has set in,” Drosten added. “People are claiming we overreacted, there is political and economic pressure to return to normal.”
“The federal plan is to lift lockdown slightly, but because the German states, or Länder, set their own rules, I fear we’re going to see a lot of creativity in the interpretation of that plan. I worry that the reproduction number will start to climb again, and we will have a second wave,” he added.
Germany currently has the fifth highest coronavirus cases in the world, with more than 157,000 as of Monday.
But they have been able to keep their death toll much lower than other countries — 5,976 compared to the US’ 54,877 — which has largely been attributed to the country’s extensive testing at the beginning of the outbreak.
“In Germany, people see that the hospitals are not overwhelmed, and they don’t understand why their shops have to shut,” Drosten said.
“They only look at what’s happening here, not at the situation in, say, New York or Spain,” referring to two of the most hard-hit areas in the world in the pandemic.
Drosten even said he’s even gotten death threats.
“For many Germans I’m the evil guy who is crippling the economy,” he said.
Hundreds of Germans took to the streets of Berlin on Saturday to protest against the lockdown measures. According to The Guardian, about 200 people were involved in the protest, and dozens were arrested.