Why this might not work

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel takes off her face mask as she arrives for the National Integration Summit at the Chancellery in Berlin on October 19, 2020.FABRIZIO BENSCH | AFP | Getty Images

Germany’s coronavirus outbreak and its strategy to tackle the virus have not been the same as those of its European counterparts.This could be a good thing, given that Germany has recorded 397,922 cases of the virus, far fewer than Spain, which now has over a million cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with France.

It has also recorded far fewer coronavirus-related deaths, totaling 9,905 and increasing very slowly despite a second wave of infections as seen across the rest of the continent. Germany has blamed its relatively milder pandemic experience on its modern healthcare system and strong regime of testing and contact tracing.

The country has also differed from its European peers at the political level in that it has taken a largely decentralized approach to managing the response to the virus.

But that approach could turn out to be a double-edged sword when it comes to advice and clear public messages about the virus, according to Carsten Nickel, deputy director of research at Teneo Intelligence.

“The question is whether Germany’s strength since the start of the pandemic – not only local taxation but in fact local design of restrictive and supportive measures – will become an obstacle,” Nickel said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel “urged for compliance over the weekend, but only a clear national message could still prevent the need for tighter lockdowns in winter,” he warned.

While other national governments across Europe have imposed restrictions, ranging from national lockdowns to localized measures (albeit with the agreement, and sometimes reluctant acceptance of local leaders), Germany has delegated handling the virus and restrictions on regional leaders in its 16 states.

This means that in addition to national posts such as Merkel last weekend imploring all Germans to avoid non-essential travel and gatherings and general rules on social distancing and wearing masks, there are also restrictions. that differ from state to state.

The move is based on the respective infection rates observed in different German states, some of which have large populations; North Rhine-Westphalia has a population of 17.9 million, for example, and has seen the highest number of recorded cases per state, with 97,507 cases.

Germany on Tuesday recorded a 7-day incidence of 48.6 cases per 100,000 population, according to the Robert Koch Institute, while the 7-day incidence in Berlin, Bremen, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland is “considerably” higher than the national average incidence over 7 days, according to the public health body, and “slightly higher” in Bavaria.

“Politically, Germany has so far done well with its traditionally decentralized approach, with local and regional authorities agreeing on joint management of the pandemic rather than Berlin imposing rules on lower level authorities to be continued, ”said Nickel of Teneo Intelligence.

“But the question now is how citizens across the country can be made to abide by an ideally simple and transparent set of rules while still leaving enough room for differentiation between more and less affected regions”, a- he declared.

Negotiations on regional rules between regional leaders and the national government can also be a difficult process. Nickel cited endless discussions last week between Merkel and regional leaders to agree on new restrictions, such as thresholds for private gatherings and restrictions on leisure travel from areas with higher infection rates.

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