Europe’s best-selling newspaper announced this weekend the lockdown in response to the Chinese coronavirus pandemic was a “huge mistake,” citing a number of public intellectuals critical of the country’s official response.
Reproducing comments from seven well-known intellectuals, Bild underscores the importance of “warning, doubting, and arguing” in the case of a public crisis that involves the suppression of the fundamental rights of citizens.
In presenting the opinions of highly esteemed “lateral thinkers,” the newspaper notes Germany’s political leaders, on the contrary, “pushed the recommendations of other luminaries to justify the lockdown of the economy and public life, as well as the severe interference with everyone’s freedoms,” while ignoring contrary voices.
Prof. Klaus Püschel, for instance, a respected pathologist and head of the Institute of Forensic Medicine at Hamburg University Hospital, argues that “in the end, COVID-19 is a viral disease like the flu, which in most cases is harmless and is only fatal in exceptional cases.
“It is important to look at the aftermath of the epidemic to see if COVID-19 really was the cause of death,” Püschel observes. “Of the approximately 180 deceased with coronavirus that we have now examined, all suffered from severe pre-existing conditions and were not children or adolescents. The COVID-19 infection was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
University of Hanover Professor Stefan Homburg, a former adviser to the federal government, agrees official figures in Germany in no way justified the lockdown.
“In Italy, the coronavirus epidemic was worse than a flu epidemic, in Germany it was less severe,” Homburg said. “With the lockdown, the federal and state governments have made a huge mistake.”
“The damage is increasing every day, all bans must be lifted immediately,” he continued. “Empty soccer stadiums and half-empty restaurants are of no use to anyone.”
For his part, Professor Hans-Jürgen Papier, former president of the Federal Constitutional Court, said the debate was too short and state interventions went too far.
“The balance was between the protection of life and health on the one hand and the protection of constitutional goods on the other,” he said. In principle, “there should have been a broader and more detailed parliamentary and public debate. To this end, the legal goods to be weighed up were too important and the consequences and interventions too great.”
Julian Nida-Rümelin, Germany’s former Minister of Culture, said statistics without contextualization create fear and panic but do not promote a rational debate.
“With COVID-19, new, huge numbers appear every day, which make us frightened and perplexed,” he said. “These figures must be understood by asking: how many people die every day in Germany in total? How many have heart attacks? How many from cancer? How many from COVID-19? Little is being done to this effect.”
For “legendary” journalist Patricia Riekel, warnings and an appeal to personal responsibility would have been preferable to the lockdown.
“I would not have thought the measures necessary,” Ms. Riekel states. “I am in favor of the Swedish way, with recommendations that distance be kept and that people who are at risk stay at home.”
“What we have seen in the last six weeks has been excessive,” Riekel adds: “We have become a people of compliers and snitches.”