Challenges and options to counter coronavirus pandemic in Germany

The worldwide spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and its associated respiratory disease COVID-19 proceeds at a highly dynamic pace. The Leopoldina has convened an interdisciplinary group of scientists to investigate the current situation. The resulting ad-hoc statement 'Coronavirus Pandemic in Germany: Challenges and Options for Intervention' discusses potential health policy options to counter the coronavirus pandemic in Germany.

Measures taken by the German Federal Government and the German Federal States (Länder) to curb the ongoing coronavirus pandemic are urgently required at present and correspond to the threat posed by the pandemic. They consist of three elements: (1) containment of the epidemic, (2) protection of vulnerable population groups, and (3) capacity increase in the public healthcare system and in the public supply of critical goods and services.

There is scientific evidence for the effectiveness and necessity of selected measures, while others are proposed on the basis of projections and political considerations. Top priority must be given to the development of drugs and vaccines. With this, medical ethics must be considered. The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina will support and accompany the readjustment and design of measures within the coming weeks in close exchange with the international scientific community.

From a scientific point of view, a Germany-wide temporary shutdown (of approx. 3 weeks) with consistent physical distancing seems advisable at this time. Necessary and health-preserving activities must remain possible. All efforts in the next weeks and months should be directed towards making pharmaceutical interventions and protective measures available for the public, and towards assuring testing capacities for cases suspected of infection and for those persons entering the country. During the shutdown period, preparations must be made for the controlled and selective restart of public and economic life.

By means of a temporary "shutdown", the working group discussed a stringent nationwide curfew until at least after the Easter holidays. At that point, the situation would have to be re-evaluated. This would not imply a work prohibition, a ban on purchasing food or even a ban on going for walks with the family. The goal is to make consistent use of home office, if possible. A disciplined spatial distance of 2 meters between people is also crucial, especially if they do not live in the same household.

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