Corona in Germany: Strictest measures worldwide?

fact finder

Status: 11.01.2022 6:03 a.m.

According to Oxford University’s Covid Stringency Index, Germany has the strictest measures against the pandemic in the world. But a closer look shows: The representation simplifies complex regulations.

By Patrick Gensing, editorial office at ARD-faktenfinder

Germany has the toughest measures against Corona worldwide – among others, Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Rainer Haseloff took this last week stressed at a press conference. This is also repeatedly asserted in various online discussions.

A frequently cited source is the Covid-Stringency-Index the University of Oxford, which wants to present the reaction of governments as well as the severity of measures in an internationally comparable way. For this purpose, data from different countries is collected, sorted according to categories and evaluated. This results in a point system that ranges from zero (no measures at all) to 100.

Germany scored more than 84 points on December 31, 2021 – top worldwide. The Federal Republic, for example, is ahead of China. The high score will according to the information Particularly driven up by some measures, for example the closure of schools, restrictions on public transport, closed shops and the wearing of masks in parts of public life.

Schools closed?

But this information raises some questions. Because, for example, the vast majority of schools in Germany are not closed. On the contrary, the ministers of education recently emphasized once again that these should remain open.

Shops, restaurants, bars, museums and cultural sites are also mostly open – in contrast to the lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic. Nevertheless, the current measures in the index are classified more strictly than those in spring 2020 or 2021, when many shops, restaurants, cultural institutions and, above all, schools were actually closed nationwide.

Lockdown in the Netherlands less strict?

Inconsistencies are not only apparent in the course of time, but also when comparing states. According to the index, Germany is said to have had much stricter rules in recent weeks than the Netherlands, where a nationwide lockdown was imposed in mid-December.

Nevertheless, the Netherlands scored 64 points – 20 points less than Germany.

The strictest regional measure is assessed

But how do these assessments come about? This is explained by the data basis of the index. In some cases, the measures vary greatly within a country – in the Federal Republic with its distinctive federal system, these differences are often particularly pronounced. But for the index, the regional measures that are the toughest are always taken into account – even if they only relate to a few districts. So is the explanation: “If policies vary at
the subnational level, the index shows the response level of the strictest subregion.”

Project manager Thomas Hale confirms this at the request of “If only one federal state in Germany has introduced the strictest regulations, but the rest of the country has no similar regulations, we record the strictest regulations and add a corresponding label.”

Lockdowns in Bavaria and Saxony

In view of the extremely high incidence values ​​and full hospitals in Bavaria and Saxony, there had been regional lockdowns, while life in most of the federal territory continued without such restrictions. But it was precisely this lockdown that was used as a reference for the whole of Germany.

Sweden stricter than Denmark?

There are other amazing results: In Scandinavia, for example, Sweden has according to the index currently significantly stricter measures than Denmark, although the government in Copenhagen had decided on far-reaching measures after the advance of the Omikron variant.

Project leader Hale explained that the Swedish measures could be interpreted in different ways. “After long discussions in our team, we decided,” said Hale, to code the strict recommendations of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven as de facto necessary measures to restrict group meetings, even if these cannot be enforced by law.

China, on the other hand, which already responds to small outbreaks with massive lockdowns, has not even reached the value that Germany is currently recording during the entire course of the pandemic.

Regulations for the unvaccinated are evaluated

Researcher Hale explains that the value for Germany is currently particularly high because the strictest applicable regulations for the index are taken into account. And those are regulations like 2G for certain shops or restaurants. Measures that do not restrict the vast majority, but apply to unvaccinated people. But work is being done to improve the data collection system to include the regulations that apply to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, said Hale.

But this also leads to inaccuracies. In Germany, for example, in the category of public passenger transport, it says “Require closing (or prohibit most citizens from using it)”. However, traffic will not be stopped, and most people will not be banned from using buses and trains. The 3G regulation is not an obstacle even for unvaccinated people.

Project manager Hale warns against overinterpreting the index. This is “to be understood as a simple summary of the number and intensity of the applicable restrictions”. The Covid Stringency Index “only indicates which countries have a stricter policy – for unvaccinated people”.

It is undisputed that Germany has imposed far-reaching restrictions on Covid-19. Whether the Federal Republic of Germany has the strictest rules worldwide can hardly be proven in view of the limitations with the index.

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