Dhe Robert Koch Institute (RKI) does not need many words. In its glossary, the authority briefly explains important terms. The pandemic? A “disease that spreads to large areas of a country or continent,” it says. And her relative, the endemic? This is a “disease native to an area that regularly affects a larger part of the population”.
The terms say nothing about the severity of the disease. They do not provide any information about whether an infection poses a risk or what is necessary to protect the population. The labels only make it clear how far a disease spreads and whether the respective populations already have experience with it.
The distinction should be well known to the virologist Christian Drosten from the Berlin Charité. In an interview with the “Tagesspiegel”, the scientist, who received a lot of attention in the Corona crisis, described how he currently assesses things: “This winter we are experiencing the first endemic wave with SARS-CoV-2,” said Drosten. And he added: “In my estimation, the pandemic is over.”
Broad immunity in the population
The immunity in the population will be so broad after the winter that the virus will hardly be able to get through next summer, said Drosten. The only exception is that the corona virus is changing significantly again. “But I don’t expect that anymore at the moment either.” Corona has come to stay. In October, the Federal Ministry of Research reported that 95 percent of people in Germany had already come into contact with the pathogen through vaccination or an infection. What follows from this politically? Drosten’s classification contained some fuel for this question.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) are once again facing each other. The Free Democrat is urging the remaining restrictions that have been imposed in connection with the Corona crisis to be lifted quickly. “The few corona protection measures that are still available are justified in fighting off a pandemic,” said Buschmann on Tuesday. “If experts now determine the end of the pandemic and the beginning of an endemic, then that means that corona will from now on be part of the general risk of life, like other diseases.”
One consequence is that “special coercive measures to combat the pandemic are no longer justified”. The federal government can override the nationwide protective measures by ordinance. And that, according to Buschmann, she should do.
“The clinics are full, the staff is overwhelmed”
Karl Lauterbach rejects this. “An immediate end to all measures would be reckless and is not demanded by Christian Drosten either,” he said. It is true that Germany has entered the endemic state. Nevertheless, particularly vulnerable people must continue to be protected. “The clinics are full, the staff is overwhelmed, excess mortality is high and winter is not over yet.”
Parallel to the ministers, the health politicians of the parliamentary groups are grappling. Andrew Ullmann from the FDP warned: “We can and should go back to normal. Measures restricting freedom were unavoidable during the corona pandemic. But now the situation has changed.” There are effective vaccines, drugs against Covid-19 and a high level of immunity in the population. In addition, the corona incidence is quite low compared to the flu.
According to RKI information, flu viruses in particular, which were detected in more than every second sample, and the respiratory syncytial virus, which appeared in 15 percent of cases, were circulating shortly before the holidays. Corona was only found in five percent of all samples examined in the laboratory.