The COVID-19 pandemic has already claimed more victims than any of us could have imagined. The images from hospitals around the world are a painful reminder of the need to strengthen our health systems and support health care professionals.
At the same time we must be mindful of the social and economic impact of the current lockdown. The world stumbled into this situation in an uncoordinated fashion. That makes it all the more important now to organize an orderly exit from the crisis. We cannot afford to see things in black and white. By making responsible decisions and keeping a sense of proportion, we can protect high-risk groups and start lifting the restrictions in an appropriate manner.
That’s the spirit in which German politicians have steered the country through the first phase of the crisis. So far, it seems, the federal government has managed to strike the delicate balance between protecting people’s health and the resulting restrictions on business. Yet we’re already hearing of companies that can’t avoid filing for bankruptcy. Emptying order books and uncertain prospects are worrying companies, employees, investors and customers.
We all need to realize that government aid packages, however diverse and extensive they may be, can only ever provide short-term relief. No economy in the world can withstand such an exceptional situation over the long term. The huge economic consequences are already becoming apparent. That’s why we must move on as quickly as possible to the question of how we can continue to stem the spread of COVID-19 while at the same time organizing an orderly transition to the next phase of our crisis management. We need a precise roadmap and a countrywide effort as part of a joint European endeavor in order a regain a degree of economic normality.
We shouldn’t be under any illusions about this: even when the economy starts up again we will still be a long way from the conditions we had before the crisis. Some restrictions on our freedom will remain for the time being. So we need to differentiate and weigh the risks. It’s in everyone’s interest for some areas of our social and economic life to return to normal. Here are some of the things we should keep in mind as we work towards this:
I’m convinced we will overcome this crisis. We must learn the right lessons from it, and that includes addressing the reliability of supply in Germany and Europe. In my opinion we also need a new debate about the value of science in particularly critical areas. But we haven’t reached that point yet. Our task now is to prudently tackle the next phase of this crisis and enable a cautious return to a degree of economic normality. We will make our contribution to achieving that goal.