TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - As Texas enters the next phase of re-opening its economy, a German lawmaker is sharing insight into his country’s strategy for emerging from lockdown, while managing the spread of COVID-19.
Peter Beyer, a member of the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, credits his country’s successful response to the pandemic on coordination among the federal government and its 16 state parliaments.
“I think it was very good that they tried rather reasonably to coordinate their politics, their moves.”
As lockdown restrictions are being relaxed and businesses slowly reopen in western Europe, the number of deaths related to COVID-19 in Germany has remained around 8 thousand, which is starkly fewer than neighboring countries France, Space, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
By comparison, the United States has more than four times the population of Germany. As of Tuesday, the U.S. had a seemingly disproportionate number of COVID-19 fatalities, nearly 11 times the number reported by Germany.
“A little over 8 thousand (deaths) is bad enough. But I think it was very, very calmly managed. (Chancellor) Angela Merkel was a very good crisis manager before and it proved to be the case this time as well.”
In early May, a monthly poll released by public broadcaster ARD indicated two-thirds of those surveyed approved of the German government’s handling of the pandemic.
Beyer says the biggest success in the management of the crisis came from German citizens’ compliance with lockdowns and other social distancing requirements.
“They understood that there’s some need, there’s some emergency which is affecting each and everybody’s lives and could affect each and everybody’s health and maybe even life. So they played by the rules for a long time.”
Certain non-essential shops in Germany were allowed to open in late April. By the first week of May, some schools across the country had reopened. The German Bundesliga soccer league resumed matches Saturday, without spectators.
The German government’s ban on gatherings of more than two individuals who do not live in the same household will remain in place, while the use of face masks is strongly encouraged.
In the meantime, many of Beyer’s government duties have shifted from face-to-face to virtual meetings. A member of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, Beyer represents a district near Düsseldorf and serves as Coordinator of Transatlantic Cooperation for the German government. With travel restrictions still in place, his monthly trips to the U.S. have completely stopped, though, he is still able to travel by train to Berlin.
Even with the easing of some contact restrictions, Beyer predicts some aspects of life may never change, like fewer handshakes.
“I hope that does not mean that we are not meeting people as often as before. That we are not as close to people. That we are not interacting as before. Because I think the short, physical contact of shaking a hand, or if you know someone really well, a hug or so, it is important that it’s there.”
Among the many challenges of the crisis, Beyer said the European Commission is already coordinating a joint plan to respond to misinformation.
“All our intelligence services say there is very concrete, and in not in small amounts, a campaign of disinformation, both by Russia and by China, abusing specifically the current pandemic situation.”
Beyer says the biggest lesson to be learned from this historic crisis will be the importance of collaboration, identifying best practices, and sharing that information freely.
“And then sit together and see how we can be much better prepared for the next pandemic, which is a sure thing to come.”