Science

Lock everything like in China?

“Very high” – so the World Health Organization (WHO) now estimates the risk of global spread of the Covid – 19 called infectious disease. From China alone, around 80 000 infections with the new coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 reported, including 2800 deaths. And over a hundred infections have also been identified in Germany.

The drastic measures taken by the Chinese government in recent weeks to contain the disease have been expressly praised by the WHO , According to research by the New York Times, an estimated 760 millions of Chinese have been quarantined to varying degrees. Apparently with success: The number of new infections reported has recently decreased.

[Alle wichtigen Updates des Tages zumCoronavirusin den Fragen des Tages.Dazu die wichtigsten Nachrichten, Leseempfehlungen und Debatten.]

According to many experts, Sars-CoV-2 will also spread in Europe and Germany – up to 70 Percentage of the population could end up facing the virus, says Charité virologist Christian Drosten. So will closures like in China soon be necessary?

Global community not ready for measures like in China – yet

“Much of the global community is not yet ready, in terms of mentality and material, to implement the measures necessary to contain Covid – 19 have been implemented in China, ”says a report from a commission of experts from the WHO that recently visited China. And these are “the only measures that are currently proven to be able to interrupt or minimize the transmission chains,” the paper goes on to say.

It is true that the The Chinese Communist Party has taken drastic measures – initially, however, the aim was not to nip the plague that was just beginning, but to report on it.

As the Chinese magazine “Caixin” writes , a laboratory has already sequenced the genetic material of the viruses from the lung fluid of a man from Wuhan on Christmas Day 2019. It showed considerable similarity to the Sars pathogen, which is between 2002 and 2003 about 8000 people infected and almost 800 killed. A few days later, however, there was an instruction to delete the sequence data. At the 30. December was the ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who died in early February of Covid – 19, one of the first to raise the alarm. The police prohibited him from spreading his warning.

The first Covid – 19 – death the state media reported only on 11. January, but at the same time appeased that there was “no clear evidence” that the virus could be transmitted from person to person. When researchers from Shanghai first made the genome of the virus public on the same day, their laboratory was closed the next day, according to research by the “South China Morning Post” from Hong Kong.

“Initially completely out of control”

Although leader Xi Jinping had been informed of the events in Wuhan at least since January 7, several weeks passed until the spread of the virus was effectively combated. Only on 20. January the regime spoke of a “serious situation” – two days after a banquet in Wuhan for 40 000 families had been targeted. Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), recently judged the outbreak to be “completely out of control” in China.

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Only when The regime gained international attention: From 23. In January, Wuhan was completely sealed off. The population there has been practically locked into their homes for a month and a half, and the food supply is working only with great difficulty.

According to various reports, many people died in their homes – not least because patients with other illnesses no longer dare to go to the clinics or cannot be treated there anyway due to overwork. There are many tragic stories on the Chinese social media under the hashtag # PatientWithout pneumoniaSuchHilfe: tumor patients were not operated on, terminally ill babies were not treated.

The “very rigorous crackdown” certainly slowed the spread says Gérard Krause from the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research to the Tagesspiegel. This has given other countries time to prepare for the wave of diseases. “But it also had undesirable consequences for health and the economy.” In retrospect, one had to assess whether the measures were necessary and appropriate to this extent – Krause says that it is not yet possible to assess them at this point in time.

China's measures are “amazing, unprecedented and medieval”

as “amazing, unprecedented and medieval” however, Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown University in Washington rated Beijing's approach to the journal Science. When asked by Tagesspiegel, the director of the WHO Collaborating Center for National and Global Health Law said it was “medieval because it was the way the world dealt with epidemics before the development of modern public health and medicine”.

The evidence for the benefit of mass insulation is weak. “The WHO said that China's policies worked – but we still don't have good epidemiological studies on them,” said Gostin. “There are also significant concerns about human rights.”

The “normal methods of public health,” Gostin said, are “testing, treatment, contact tracking and isolation, and quarantine, to the extent it is scientifically justified ”. But WHO's ability to ensure that these measures are implemented by China and other countries around the world is limited.

Background to the corona virus:

  • With face masks against the coronavirus? What really protects against the transmission of germs
  • “The flu is much worse”: Why the comparison of corona and flu viruses is lagging – and still worthwhile
  • German coronavirus expert says: “We have to prepare for a pandemic”
  • Path of the pathogen around the world: Interactive maps show how the corona virus has spread
  • Dramatic situation in northern Italy: “It is as if we were in Wuhan “

In the In recent weeks, the WHO has repeatedly stated that it does not recommend travel or trade restrictions – Beijing disregards this recommendation in its own country. “China is a sovereign country and has the autonomy to take the steps that it believes are in its own interest – and in the interest of the population,” the WHO told Tagesspiegel. “We hope that China's measures are both effective and short-lived.” The drop in new cases is encouraging – but it has to be interpreted with caution as the outbreak is currently developing.

Skepticism about the effectiveness of the closures

One reason for the WHO's praise towards Beijing is that the Organization depends on maintaining good contacts with China – in the interest of global health protection. But at the same time she is risking her authority.

It is clear that every measure to curb a viral disease has advantages and disadvantages that have to be weighed up. “Perhaps the effects could be mitigated beyond Wuhan – but the spread may have increased among those who remained there,” says Daniel Lorenz from the Disaster Research Center at the Free University of Berlin (FUB). It is known from other epidemics that sometimes significantly more people die from the indirect consequences than from the disease itself.

The WHO also knows that combating the outbreak is “at high cost and victims of China and its people ”. However, although the WHO experts recently returned from a trip to China, they appear to have had no reliable evidence on these issues. “We don't have enough data to understand the effects of the Covid outbreak – 19 on patients who have other diseases. ”

Dealing with China shows how much the work of the WHO is also shaped by political tactics. This also applies to the question of how to classify the wave of diseases. So the organization has declared that the risk of a pandemic is now “high”, but is still graceful, the Covid – 19 – Plague to be called a pandemic.

“It is not helpful to start a pandemic when you are still trying to contain a disease” said Michael Ryan, director of WHO's Health Emergency Program on Friday. Some countries could then stop trying to stop infections. “We shouldn't give up too early,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We should take aggressive containment steps in all countries.”

Seizures and export stops possible

So far there has been no talk of drastic measures in Germany. The Federal Ministry of Health said that it was “prepared as best as possible”. There is indeed comparatively good care in this country and more hospital beds per inhabitant than in many other countries – but even Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn admitted that it could be necessary to confiscate respiratory masks or to impose export stops for equipment that is used to protect medical equipment Personnel is necessary.

Germany is better prepared than before, says FUB researcher Lorenz – but the effects could be “partly massive”. One must expect that the virus will appear in various other regions in Germany. In his opinion, large-scale insulation would not be expected. “With the quarantine of areas and cities, now that the virus is widespread, you have to ask yourself how sensible such measures are,” says Lorenz. It is also extremely expensive to enforce this.

Gérard Krause also sees it this way: “It only makes sense if there is a significantly higher risk for a certain area.” Now in a phase in which it no longer makes sense to concentrate the resources on blocking the outbreak: “It will no longer work.” You have to focus on the people who can be assumed to have particularly serious illnesses will have.

“And we have to be careful that the measures do not increase the severity of the outbreak.” You have to weigh up every day whether the undesirable effects are greater than the positive effects .

Safer in China

It is said that the disease spreads further also no indication that a certain measure has failed, Krause says: “Even if the epidemic cannot be stopped, it does not mean that this will result in tragedy for the whole of society.”

Ultimately, how protected you feel from the crisis management of one or the other country is an individual matter. A 24 year-old student from China, for example, who came to Germany for a thesis, has Leave Germany early on Sunday. “It will be dangerous and risky to stay here,” she told Tagesspiegel.

If the situation in Germany gets out of control, it can be difficult for them to return to China. She is surprised that many people hardly protect themselves and continue to take part in large events. “People in Germany shouldn't take it lightly,” said the student. “China seems safer to me.”

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