The contact ban is still in effect, many stores are about to open but it is not clear when most of the school kids will return to their classrooms – this applies all the more to kindergarten and nursery. The restrictions in economy and society due to the coronavirus pandemic have paralyzed Germany in large parts. What a strategy for a gradual opening could look like was the topic of an IMFS Policy webinar with Veronika Grimm of Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg.
First of all, flexibility is a decisive factor. “If the number of people infected gets out of control, you won’t have two or three weeks to react,” said Grimm, who is a Professor of Economic Theory and, since April, a proposed member of the German Council for Economic Experts. Together with an interdisciplinary group of fourteen scholars she has recently published a paper on a flexible and risk-adapted opening strategy.
Watch the video of the IMFS Policy Webinar with Prof. Veronika Grimm here
Grimm argued that in the current lockdown various dimensions are important: the pressure on the economy, social hardships, and medical consequences. Therefore, the question when and how people can return to work can only be answered in a multidisciplinary way. For this reason, Grimm supports the implementation of task forces where researchers of various disciplines collaborate on a national and at the federal state level. These task forces are supposed to observe the impact of relaxations and regularly evaluate the situation and the appropriate reactions. In her view, a recommendation by a task force could be useful for policymakers when they have to defend their decisions. For Grimm, regionally different strategies due to different conditions based on the number of infected people and beds of intensive care available are justified. “However, rules based on certain indicators are important to minimize uncertainty,” Grimm said.
Also from a company’s perspective, clear frameworks and a certain period of preparation are necessary. “The better the preparatory measures, the more restrictions can be eased.” According to Grimm, besides the risk of infection and the question of belonging to a risk group, further decisive criteria are the importance of an area about to be opened in economy and society and the implementation possibilities of protection measures. She argued that the number of those who are infected and can pass on the coronavirus to others but do not show symptoms is also very important.
In Grimm’s opinion, digitizing the health system as fast as possible is an important instrument. In this context, she pointed out that the usual practice of using phone and fax among staff members of health authorities unnecessarily delays information processes. Also, app-based concepts for infection protection would be a significant step if they are accepted by the majority of people. A long, complete lockdown, which would also serve to avoid further waves of infection, is not conceivable at the moment. “Therefore, we will have to learn to live with protection measures for a long time and we will have to learn more about the coronavirus as fast as possible,” Grimm concluded.