Whe still thinks that the pandemic is behind us, he probably also believes that we are equipped for every new wave of the virus with the experience of the past three years. However, the hectic deliberations in Brussels and the EU capitals this week suggest the opposite: the gaps in knowledge and action are still blatant, even in the much-researched Covid 19 crisis.
The agreement of the EU countries on a mandatory test recommendation for travelers from China is the only signal that politicians wanted to use to demonstrate: We understand. But did she really?
In any case, the risk that the world could have to deal with an even more aggressive corona virus has not decreased with the brutal infection policy in China. Many in Germany have suppressed this, allowing themselves to be lulled by the comparatively good population immunity. Also Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who initially considered more controls, more virus genetic tests and wastewater analyzes at airports unnecessary.
Lauterbach likes to put the lessons learned with a view to prevention and pandemic preparedness into strong words. However, there is a problem with consistent implementation.
Blatant vaccination gaps
In the US, where the highly contagious omicron variant XBB.1.5 is exploding, one can see what pandemic policies can achieve when pushed to the second or third term too soon. Blatant vaccination gaps, education deficits, conspiracy stories, nonsensical mask debates and false information leave a largely unprotected and unwilling population there. The situation in China is even worse. Here and there, a dangerous pandemic pragmatism has spread, which only feigns security and yet leads to a dangerous loss of control faster than everyone thought.
Beijing recently even announced the reopening of animal markets. The threatening scenario that in the current epidemic situation the circulating omicron variants mix with new zoonotic pathogens is getting closer. For now, that’s just theory. But as everyone knows, it’s not unrealistic.
However, many experts consider the testing requirements for travelers to China to be inappropriate because they assess the infection process based on the circulating variants and compare the effort involved. This is epidemiological pragmatism, but it ignores the other dimension that will be decisive for the future of pandemic preparedness: the health policy pressure, which is more necessary than ever.
Prevention and rapid containment can only succeed with maximum transparency. However, China still shows no interest in this. Only under pressure has Beijing now put a few hundred virus sequences in the open gene databases – just to show that the current variants have nothing to do with China and circulate outside the country. How credible is that, where does it lead?
A few months ago, the World Health Organization presented the draft of a global pandemic preparedness convention. It threatens to become waste before it even gets to the UN Assembly and the pandemic is over. Health policy is currently doing little to ensure that we can all finally feel safer again.