Children, the elderly and people with disabilities in particular have been hit disproportionately hard by the Covid-19 regulations. The paternalism with which the corona measures are still sold today as without alternatives irritates. A response to the critics of the critics of hygiene measures.
Mrs. W. was 94 years old and Alzheimer’s patient. She lived in a nursing facility of the Diakonie near Göttingen and was regularly visited by volunteers, including Mrs. G., about whose visit she was always very happy. Since the beginning of the corona crisis, however, Mrs. G., like all other external nurses of the institution, was not allowed to visit her. “What did I do wrong? Please tell me what I did wrong!?“Mrs. W. should have called again and again complaining. They were also not allowed to visit their children.
She died after six weeks.
Mr. C. (48) has been going to a psychosomatic day clinic since June because of a Depression. In the time of the lockdown he spent in the Home Office, he realized that he was getting sadder and sadder. In addition to the lack of distraction from a job that is not very fulfilling in any case, he sees the main reason for this as the loss of the family relationship with his sons (10 and 14 years), whom he has supervised since the separation from his wife in a changing model. “They usually came to me two days a week after school and we went to the football field together. But after the Shutdown they were there less and less and if they did, they sat on the Sofa and looked at their phones”.
Ms. M. (33) became infected with Covid-19 in March. she worked and lived in a Yoga center and had to spend a total of four weeks in her room because there were only two collection dates for tests. While she survived the infection well even from the external signs, she developed an eating disorder during the period of Isolation and is currently waiting for an inpatient therapy place.
This should not be a calculation of the collateral damage that has arisen in the health care sector as a result of the measures taken against the Coronavirus. This is not even possible at this point in time. Nor should it be a matter of virological misjudgments, such as the assumption that children spread the Virus strongly – the opposite seems to be the case, as the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” writes.
This is about the rules for pandemic control and their effects on people’s souls. And about the question: Did you have to do it exactly like that, it simply could not be otherwise? With the same level of knowledge about the Virus, under the same basic assumptions about its spread, would not other measures have been conceivable and feasible?
Did it have to be done like this? A Mind Game
The following thought game: we hide everything that has been researched and reported about the Virus in the meantime. We accept the basic assumption made at the beginning of the Lockdown measures that all humans are equally contagious to each other with respect to Covid-19 (whereas evidence from studies already spoke in February). We also accept the resulting assessment that any social contact that takes place increases the pandemic risk for the general population to the same extent. Even then, the question arises as to whether the measures that were effective during the lockdown and which in some cases still apply today had to result from this, taking into account ethical considerations.
Could there not have been, should there not have been, a consideration that takes into account the human need for social exchange with relatives, friends and good acquaintances, for human support, closeness and contact? Yes, perhaps even after community activities, which are possible by far, so that not necessarily all cultural, sporting and also political activities outside of online meetings come to a standstill?
For example, the question arises as to why high-risk groups (or those who were thought to be so from the outset, especially the elderly) were allowed to go shopping themselves during the entire lockdown, in which they were allowed to contact an unspecified number of people, but grandparents should not see their grandchildren. (Virologist and government advisor Christian Drosten on 12 March 2020: children should “not see Grandma and grandpa again until September, October”). Would there not have been serious alternatives to these requirements, which would have been much more humane, social and even economically productive? After all, grandparents are also important supporters of childcare for working parents – they would have been even more so during the time of the daycare and school closures. According to studies, parents in particular, and in this case mothers in particular, suffered financial losses because they were either unable to work with the children at home at all or only reduced (which should have been clear even without scientific analyses, since the right to childcare was introduced in 2013 primarily to increase the chances of women on the labour market). So couldn’t older people have been given the choice, Either you risk casual contacts while shopping or you see your grandchildren or other people who are important to you?
Much was not even discussed
According to figures from the Federal Statistical Office, around 17 million people live in Germany alone, of which around 4.7 million are over 65 and another million over 85. That means almost six million people, most of whom are no longer working, who do not endanger anyone at home, but who may be dependent on outside help, structures and distractions to get through the day. Who maybe only have a few years, maybe even only a few months to live. During the first weeks of the lockdown, these people did not even have benches to rest when they were running errands. Or just walked out the door to avoid going crazy. How humane it is to say to an elderly person living alone: stay at home so that you stay healthy, and preferably alone!?
Certainly, more older people would have given up going to the food market if they had had another “task”. The problem with the material supply could easily have been solved by Bring Services or, less anonymously, by purchasing communities supported by the community. After all, at the latest since the time of the refugee crisis, one knows how effectively and quickly voluntary initiatives can be organized in this country. And the grandchildren had already had two weeks of Isolation in their parents ' apartment from the end of March, so in case of doubt they would not have been contagious for grandma and grandpa. Of course, a much more targeted use of Tests would have been possible to secure visits to risk groups – e.g. at Easter or on the occasion of birthdays or funeral ceremonies. However, all this was not discussed at all, neither politically nor in the media debate.
Shopping allowed, social relationships prohibited
But consumption was allowed to the elderly, and the maintenance of human relationships was sanctioned. And that over a very long time. Not infrequently there were arguments and tears in the families. With the aim of protecting seniors from the Virus, they were kept away from their relatives and friends for weeks, sometimes months, they were taken away from Love habits such as going to the coffee house, to the cinema, Theater or even to the swimming pool – and also the Sunday service was not allowed to take place, although the churches are almost nowhere full outside of Christmas.
Those who lived in retirement or nursing homes were probably often even worse off: visits were severely limited almost everywhere, external nurses were excluded, residents were prevented from going outside. An overview of the-probably not infrequently illegal restrictions-is missing so far. With bewilderment one reads reports that even dying people were prescribed the length of the visit to relatives. Who in heaven’s name is better protected by the fact that the (adult) children of a dying person may only be with her one after the other and by the hour?
Flights allowed, relatives visit restricted
The same form of risk calculation, though not quite with such depressing consequences, is found in all areas of life. Let us look at the group of younger adults, the majority of whom are working and therefore had to cope with commuting. Here, too, the same pattern: random encounters with unknown people on buses and trains, in a confined space, for example in rail replacement traffic, were not prevented, but lunch together, the after-work beer or the team meeting with colleagues were not allowed, due to spatial restrictions in the companies and because the canteen and pub had closed.
Supermarket cashiers were allowed to serve complete strangers all day (by the way, for a long time, without wearing masks was mandatory), but not to go to the gym after work. Travelers from abroad who arrived at Tegel airport were still able to go home weeks after the start of the Lockdown without testing and quarantine requirements – or to the supermarket. Berliners, on the other hand, were not allowed to visit relatives in Lower Saxony or Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania at Easter.
The corona measures in the time of the first Lockdown (and their interpretation by health, order and school authorities) were characterized by a complete undervaluation until the elimination of the role that social relations, a varied daily structure and physical activity play for the well-being.
Especially rigid against the Recent
Of course, this also applies, and especially for the youngest: that teachers cannot be easily replaced by avatars or algorithms, even the greatest apologists of digital education have noticed by now – no student can motivate himself in the long run. However, the social role of classmates, which are a reason for many children to like going to school, was also underestimated. But in the virological misconception that children are very contagious, they were kept particularly rigid and pitiless from their social relationships. School, day-care center, playground, sports, music school and choir, tent camp, visit to grandma and grandpa, everything too, forbidden and declared as dangerous to the community.
And while all other areas of society were already loosening up, children could only return to completely regulated care and education zones with barriers: school classes were cut in half or divided into three, friends and girlfriends were not allowed to hug each other after weeks of separation, kita children were not allowed to return to their old groups: they had to be with the children, with whom they returned to emergency care at the same time. Friendships, common paths, common interests, common leisure activities, nothing played a role in sorting the children in the educational institutions.
Children and young people have been and will be kept away from their sports groups, orchestras and choirs indefinitely until at least the end of the summer holidays, they are not allowed to go on holiday in the summer and not on school trips in the autumn – the 10th and 12th classes, which have planned their final trips for this year, are particularly bitter.
The interim results of a currently ongoing study show what every adult who observed children at the time of the lockdown could see coming: the children were overly burdened by the Lockdown, showed more psychological abnormalities than before the crisis, and reported psychosomatic complaints such as irritability, headache or abdominal pain, and sleep disorders. Even if the authors of the study do not state this so clearly so far: it will have been the consequence of the frontal attack on the social relations of the children that triggered this – coupled with the desolate weeks of house arrest
Consistent against sports and culture, easy on parties
The age group, on the other hand, which tends to make new acquaintances, to Party and also to get physically close, young people and young adults, was also least effectively prevented from doing so in the Lockdown: since there were hardly any activities for them during the day – the school did not force anyone to get up early, sports fields were closed, all leisure facilities were closed – for many of them, the range of activities increasingly shifted to the night. In any case, drinking together in the Dark Park, car racing or meetings arranged by Tinder were prevented less effectively than skating, playing basketball or rehearsing with the Band.
After the relaxation that has now taken place, the nightlife in the big cities has shifted from Clubs to the streets, Parks or large squares. Here are now much larger crowds together than in the former “inner operation”. But it is a nightlife reduced by the cultural component, because performances of Bands, theaters, cabaret, even professional DJ Sets are not allowed. Almost all Festivals are cancelled this year, a great loss for music fans of all ages, but especially for young people and for those who want to, can or must live from the cultural sector. Some of the existence that was consciously built on the exchange with the audience is currently being destroyed. It is a relaxation that allows thousands to stand together empty of content with alcohol and drug use and at the same time further prohibits cultural events of all kinds.
Paternalism and " lack of alternatives”
Conclusion: both the Lockdown rules and the relaxation exercises, without any intention of doing so, have favoured superficial social contacts and virus exchange within large, mutually unknown crowds over the maintenance of regular relationships in smaller groups.
As a result of this, also because deeply human needs for exchange, structure and community experiences were not taken into account, there was a possibly even greater risk of spreading the Virus than with more socially differentiated measures.
The extremely reduced opportunities to play, learn, work, play sports or experience culture together with others have saddened people of all ages, perhaps even left them with psychological impairments.
The paternalism with which the corona measures are still sold as without alternative and all those who criticize them are thrown into a pot of inconclusive, unsolid and undemocratic “Corona deniers”, irritated. To put it carefully. Children, the elderly and people with disabilities in particular have been hit disproportionately hard by the Covid-19 regulations, over a much longer period of time than the Rest of the population. In the end, especially those who have a special need for closeness and/or are dependent on protection or support from others were particularly disadvantaged.
For the autumn and for the further political-social debate, it is to be hoped that this perspective will also find perception.