Covid-19 in Germany: is the health system holding up? – Health

It is probably the new normal for someone to worry about every public appearance in Corona times. It is mostly numbers or the behavior of individual people that turn health experts and politicians into reminders and warnings. One requires the other. It was the same on Thursday when this number popped up early in the morning: 4058 new corona infections, reported in a single day. That is around 1200 more cases than were sent to the Robert Koch Institute the day before. What has happened there? Is Germany now catching a second wave of pandemics?

There is no clear answer to these questions. The approximately 4,000 cases could be an outlier, maybe there were delays in reporting, technical problems. Or last weekend there were celebrations or other gatherings in several places in Germany that turned into super spreading events. If such outbreaks are localized and contained quickly, the number of cases can quickly go down again. Nevertheless, one thing has long been clear: for the whole of September, the weekly average new infections were well above the numbers from the summer months – the curve goes up.

Returning travelers make up only eight percent of all new infections

To understand this dynamic, it is important to realize that the numbers now published do not reflect the current situation. The doctor and author Philipp S. Holstein described this vividly: “A Porsche is measured at 33 kilometers per hour two meters after the start of Spielstrasse. 33 is really no drama. If the accelerator is fully depressed at that point, however, it will probably be four Seconds later a speed of 100 kilometers per hour will be reached. And that is dramatically dangerous for the children. “

Transferred to the infection curve, this means: The Coronaporsche began its acceleration journey more than two weeks ago. Nobody knows how fast it is currently driving. At that time, things were evidently particularly rapid in Berlin and Bremen, where the number of positive tests has increased particularly sharply since then. But it’s not just individual hotspots where private celebrations in particular have become super-spreading events, such as a wedding in Hamm. The number of reported Corona cases is actually increasing across the board. “There are minor outbreaks in workplaces, but also again in old people’s and nursing homes and in hospitals,” explains RKI President Lothar Wieler. Returning travelers currently only make up eight percent of all new infections, so the infection process is again taking place within Germany. On the other hand, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn, there are no outbreaks when shopping or visiting the hairdresser, and according to the current state of knowledge, a trip by bus or train is not particularly risky.

A look at the numbers also shows: the increase in new infections cannot be explained by increased testing. The rate of positive tests has also climbed in the past few weeks and was most recently 1.64 percent. This value is still very low compared to other countries that are also testing extensively. In Germany, too, there were weeks in the spring in which around every tenth test was positive – but at that time mainly people who showed symptoms were tested. Many asymptomatically infected people were not recorded at all. It is now clear, however, that you can pass the virus on if you don’t get sick yourself.

But how meaningful is a look at the number of infections alone? Here, too, the following applies: The current data can only be an indication of what can follow at intervals of one to two weeks. The more people become infected now, the greater the number will be who will need hospital treatment. In the past four weeks, the number of corona patients in the intensive care unit has already doubled – it is currently 470. However, it takes around two weeks for someone to show symptoms after an infection and become so seriously ill that they have to go to an intensive care unit . For the 4,000 cases that have now been reported, little can be said about the course of the disease at the moment.

However, one thing can already be seen from the numbers: While the infection process in the summer was for a long time mainly driven by young people who are less likely to get seriously ill with Covid-19, the proportion of the particularly vulnerable age group over 60 years has increased from seven to 16 percent since August gone up. So it cannot be prevented that the virus is carried from the younger to the older population. “The 20-year-old, who does not even know that he is infected, then visits his grandma or works in a hospital”, describes Health Minister Jens Spahn.

“It is possible that we are seeing more than 10,000 new cases a day.”

A look at France, where the curve of new infections rose dramatically a month ago, shows impressively: After the increase in new infections, the intensive care units only fill up with a delay of a few weeks, and finally the number of Covid-19 deaths is rising again. This is what RKI President Wieler warns of: “It is possible that we will see more than 10,000 new cases per day and that the virus will spread uncontrollably.” However, when this point will be reached is difficult to predict. Although the current figures suggest exponential growth, it is not so easy to make a forecast of the situation we will find ourselves in a few months’ time.

The spread of the virus could be slowed down with regional and targeted measures. If certain limit values ​​are exceeded, bars and shops have to close earlier, group sizes are restricted – and the population is also more cautious. Because fighting pandemics becomes more and more difficult the more new infections there are. The central building blocks of the German anti-corona strategy are tests, contact tracking and quarantine to prevent further infection. A strategy that works well when the number of infections is low, but can quickly reach its capacity limits when the pandemic grows exponentially. Once these limits are exceeded, there is a risk of the virus spreading uncontrollably.


Oppositionist Tichanovskaya – Don’t be afraid of the powers – Politics

Svetlana Tichanovskaya has no time. She has just been answering questions from international journalists, and Angela Merkel will receive her at the Chancellery in a few hours. In between there are meetings with almost all parties in the Bundestag. Christian Lindner’s office just got in touch with your employee. The FDP boss would also like to have an appointment. The woman from Belarus, who the world has been looking at for a few weeks, should hurry up. “I know I’m wasting time now,” she says, but she wants to think about the question first.

Doesn’t she miss large demonstrations of solidarity in Germany for the people who take to the streets in Belarus for their freedom? “Of course it would be nice if the Germans took to the streets and showed their solidarity,” says Tichanowskaja thoughtfully. Perhaps the Germans would primarily see the pictures of happy demonstrators on Belarusian streets and “perhaps they would not understand why they should support them”. The brutality of the regime may not be sufficiently recognized.

That is exactly why Tichanowskaja came to Berlin for three days from her exile in Vilnius. After the fraudulent presidential election in August, she had bet that the huge Belarusian protest movement would sweep away Alexander Lukashenko’s rule. She is now convinced that the mass demonstrations alone will not bring the regime down. “Only internal and external pressure will make a difference,” she says.

And because that is so, the 38-year-old English translator, who a few months ago was a housewife, accepts what she calls her fate. In Brussels she warned the EU foreign ministers to finally impose sanctions. In Vilnius, she made French President Emmanuel Macron responsible. The woman, who would almost certainly be president without election fraud, does not have much fun confronting those in power. But neither is fear.

In Berlin, where she is for the first time in her life, Tichanowskaja first looked at the rest of the Berlin Wall. And “surprised and delighted” found that a piece of it had been painted red and white, in the colors of Belarus. She was shown a photo, Tichanovskaya reports, showing East Germans on the wall before it was torn down. “I saw joy in the eyes of these people. It was like in Belarus,” says Tichanovskaya, where everything is about to change. We are standing on this wall and will tear it down. “

Tichanovskaya calls the meeting with Merkel an “honor”. She doesn’t know anyone who would turn down the invitation of “one of the most powerful women politicians in the world”, with one exception, of course. She means Alexander Lukashenko, who has so far refused to even take a phone call from the Chancellor. “Our country needs help. It needs mediation,” says Tichanovskaya. Merkel’s support is therefore “extremely helpful”. Merkel wants to help when she can. “When you see the courage shown by women on the streets for a free life free from corruption, then I can only say: I admire that,” she recently said in the Bundestag.

The German ambassador left Minsk on Tuesday “to hold talks in Berlin”. Germany has thus followed the example of Poland and Lithuania and is increasing diplomatic pressure. The question now is what Merkel can still do. Because Cyprus wanted to extort punishment against Turkey in the dispute over Mediterranean drilling, the European Union had needed weeks to at least impose entry bans and account freezes on 40 of Lukashenko’s people. “We are grateful for the sanctions and see them as our victory,” says Tichanovskaya diplomatically. The list must be expanded, for example, to include Russian journalists who have taken the place of Belarusians to carry out propaganda for Lukashenko.

In principle, however, Tichanovskaya agrees to leave it with entry bans and account freezes. Such sanctions are perhaps only symbolic, but they show that “our neighbors are not indifferent to our country’s problems”. The pressure will get stronger and may have to. “Perhaps in the future, when we see that nothing changes, we will ask for more serious steps,” says Tichanovskaya.

In fact, the opposition leader is now hoping for the power of diplomacy, which is also the concern with which she comes to the Chancellery on Tuesday. Since the “former head of state who still has power” – as Tichanovskaya Lukashenko calls it – does not listen to the people, others have to speak to him, preferably powerful foreign politicians. “I believe that Ms. Merkel can influence other world politicians,” says Tichanowskaja in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. She is thinking specifically of one whose name she doesn’t like to pronounce: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. “He’s important. We understand that.” Tichanovskaya is convinced that Lukashenko would be finished without Russian support and Russian money. It is Putin who has to say to Lukashenko: “Sit down at this negotiating table.”

The opposition leader herself does not know whether this is realistic. Her dealings with Putin and Russia are puzzling, and she is confident enough not to hide it. What she needs, especially from Merkel, she says, is advice. She “is always afraid of not making the right decision. A decision that does not help the Belarusian people.” Perhaps it is right to put out feelers to Russia yourself, but perhaps not. Even her advisors, who have been involved in politics for years, are unsure of this. But the opposition leader is convinced that there need be no break with Russia. “We want to remain friends with Russia, even if Lukashenko leaves,” she says. Her message after the 45-minute conversation with the Chancellor is similar. The protests in Belarus are not a “fight against Russia or Europe”, but a consequence of the crisis in the country itself, she wrote on the news channel Telegram. Your goal now is first of all new elections. She says she doesn’t know whether she’ll stay in politics afterwards. Actually, she, who originally stood in for her imprisoned husband, did not want that. “But who knows,” she says, “when everything is wonderful, there is no fear and you don’t have to fight so much, then it may be easy to be a politician.”


Trouble for state bank KfW because of Wirecard credit – economy

The Wirecard affair is annoying enough for Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and the Federal Government, but now there is even more trouble. Not only for Scholz, but also for Economics Minister Peter Altmaier. The latter is head of the board of directors of KfW, the supervisory body of the state bank; Scholz is his deputy.

The KfW subsidiary Ipex-Bank had lent the Wirecard Group 100 million euros, the money is gone, and the state bank now has the police and the public prosecutor in-house. A KfW spokesman confirmed on request that “the police and public prosecutor’s office have carried out investigations into the business premises of KfW Ipex-Bank in connection with our financing for Wirecard”. KfW did not provide any details.

The Frankfurt public prosecutor’s office is investigating the suspicion that the 100 million euros could have been loaned by the KfW subsidiary Ipex without sufficient collateral. If this assumption is correct, this could prove to be misappropriation of KfW’s assets. The public prosecutor said they were investigating those responsible for a bank in Frankfurt. It is about the initial suspicion of infidelity. The institute is accused of granting Wirecard AG a credit line of 100 million euros in 2018 and extending it in 2019 without concluding hedging transactions in order to protect itself from losses. The Frankfurt Public Prosecutor did not mention the name of the bank. But there is no doubt that KfW is meant.

A new raid on Wirecard’s corporate headquarters in Aschheim near Munich on Tuesday also involved the Frankfurt investigation. In addition, the Munich I public prosecutor’s office was looking for further material for their Wirecard procedure, which is now also about money laundering.

The Munich prosecutors suspect the old corporate board of CEO Markus Braun and Jan Marsalek, who went into hiding, to have cheated banks and other financiers out of billions. Braun is in custody, he denies all allegations. Bank managers who were suspected of being defrauded could in turn have made themselves liable to prosecution if loans were granted without the necessary collateral. This also applies to KfW.

The Wirecard loan is not the first mistake KfW makes

Scholz and Altmaier now have to prepare for new trouble in the Bundestag, which has already set up a committee of inquiry into the Wirecard affair. The key question in the KfW matter is: How can it be that the state banking group extended the credit line for Wirecard AG in 2019, which was already heavily criticized by the public because of suspected irregularities. Especially since that was not KfW’s first mistake in the past ten to fifteen years. Is the state bank, which is 80 percent owned by the federal government and 20 percent owned by the federal states, not adequately controlled? The board of directors headed by Altmaier and Scholz consists primarily of representatives from the federal, state and business communities.

At the latest since the beginning of 2019, when the British newspaper Financial Times revealed more and more strange processes at Wirecard, the payment service provider was vehemently criticized. The German financial supervisory authority Bafin did not act against Wirecard, but against it FTJournalists. The investigative committee in the Bundestag is to clarify whether other authorities in addition to the Bafin also failed in the Wirecard case and what the consequences for financial supervision are. The committee will now presumably also take care of the processes at KfW and their control.

In any case, in 2019 the state bank would have had enough time to save the 100 million euros. Wirecard had obtained 1.4 billion euros from investors in autumn 2019 and thus temporarily repaid loans with the house banks in the amount of more than one billion euros. The house banks consisted of a consortium of 15 financial institutions from Germany and abroad, of which KfW was not one. Their credit was extra. The banking consortium, including Commerzbank and Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, lost a total of 1.6 billion euros at Wirecard.

Several institutes, including KfW, have now sold their claims on Wirecard to a company called Trinity Investments from Dublin. The KfW subsidiary Ipex has nowhere near received 100 million euros from Trinity. Financial companies such as Trinity buy up such claims at high discounts and hope that money will flow back or that claims for damages will be successful. So far, the state bank has not wanted to say how big the discount for Trinity was in the case of KfW’s 100 million claim. As usual, the parties have agreed not to disclose the “specific terms and conditions”, KfW declared at the end of August.

Since the bankruptcy of Wirecard AG, insolvency administrator Michael Jaffé has tried to raise money for creditors by selling parts of the group. The 3.2 billion euros that Wirecard had borrowed from banks and investors should not come together by far.


Bavaria: Söder rejects the repository list – Bavaria

One could almost have thought that the Bavarian Prime Minister and CSU boss Markus Söder would have been caught off guard that the Federal Association for Final Storage (BGE) is targeting so many areas in Bavaria. “That is an enormous amount of uncertainty for the next few years,” said Söder on Monday at a hastily called press conference. “Almost two thirds of Bavaria are affected, that is eight million people.” He then lists all the administrative districts that are named in the BGE report – all seven. “That is the maximum range of where we would discuss in Bavaria.” The broadside against the UBI follows. When you are discussing the repository in such detail, he asks why you are “fundamentally excluding Gorleben,” says Söder. That is a “weakness in the discussion”. After all, the salt dome in Lower Saxony has been researched for decades.

Söder also explains that Bavaria will not close itself off to the further search process for the repository site and that there will be “no total blockade”. But his first reaction makes it clear the poles between which the Bavarian contribution will move in the search. CSU and Free Voters (FW) will stick to their tough course. It reads: “We are convinced that Bavaria is not a suitable location for a nuclear repository.” So far every state government has done it. This is what it says in the coalition agreement between the CSU and FW from 2018. And this is how Bavaria’s Environment Minister Thorsten Glauber (FW) has repeatedly repeated it over the past few weeks. The focus on Gorleben is not new either. Glauber never made a secret of the fact that in his eyes it “would have made more sense to investigate the Gorleben site further”.

Of course, it is astonishing that the state government is so surprised by the BGE report. Experts in the authorities of the Free State have been predicting since the beginning of the year that the new debate will no longer be limited to the Bavarian Forest and the Fichtel Mountains. It will at least include all areas north of the Danube. The reason is the granite rock there. According to the Site Selection Act (Stand AG) of 2017, granite is now also an option for a repository. The rock can be found practically everywhere in Northern Bavaria, even if it is mostly hundreds of meters below the surface of the earth.

But no matter which regions it is about, Söder will oppose it with all his might. In his words: “Today is the prelude to a lively debate. We will accompany you with staying power and good arguments and get involved where decisions are at issue.” The state government had approved the search process when the Stand AG was decided in the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Now that it is implemented, Söder says that he lacks “fairness”. He has the feeling that “everything should go to Bavaria”.

In the Czech Republic they have a repository in mind – possibly on the border with Bavaria

In the Bavarian Forest you saw the development coming early. They don’t seem so surprised there. “Of course we all hoped we weren’t there,” says Martin Behringer. “But you have to be realistic. It was clear that the BGE will not let the option for a repository be taken away from us anytime soon.” Behringer is the mayor of Thurmansbang, a town with a population of 2500. There they are now relying on the power of the CSU. Behringer: “You have to make a clear statement that our granite is unsuitable for the repository.”

Especially since they still feel threatened from the Czech side in the Bavarian Forest. The government of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is also looking for a repository there. Four locations have been under discussion since June, plus five replacement locations. One with the name Birkenbach is only 80 kilometers from the border with Bavaria. For 18 years, people in the nearby village of Chanovice have been fighting against a repository in their region. 550 meters below ground, space is to be created for 7,600 containers with spent fuel rods and 3,000 concrete containers with other radioactive waste.

It is the granite floor that makes the site interesting from the point of view of the Czech nuclear waste authority. The same granite that now makes practically all of Bavaria north of the Danube appear in the BGE report. Bavaria’s Environment Minister Glauber naturally also considers the Czech granite unsuitable and has already criticized the plans there.

But even the Czech authorities do not seem to be completely convinced of the granite at this point. Your recommendation notes that Birkenbach is “appropriate”, while the subsoil of the three other locations is considered “excellent”. The municipality may already know whether the Chanovice will help by 2022, when the choice is narrowed to two locations. The decision should then be made in 2025. Either way, the Temelín nuclear power plant is only 70 kilometers away, and there is no talk of shutdown.


Winterkorn is arguing health problems – economy

Acquittal? Fine? Jail? A good five years after the exhaust gas manipulation at Volkswagen was discovered, it is still not clear what legal consequences the scandal will have for former CEO Martin Winterkorn. He is facing two trials at the Braunschweig Regional Court. One of the proceedings for gang fraud and other alleged crimes is due to begin at the end of February, beginning of March next year. The other procedure, for alleged manipulation of VW’s stock market price, is likely to follow. But when it will be decided whether Winterkorn has broken the law is not foreseeable.

The former VW boss strongly defends himself against the allegations. But Winterkorn, now 73 years old, should no longer be in the best of health. There is talk of two foot operations in his environment this year and last, of rehab and a time in a wheelchair. There is also an old hip problem. On October 6th, the Commercial Criminal Chamber of the Regional Court of Braunschweig wants to discuss the process of fraud with the public prosecutors and defense lawyers.

Among those involved in the proceedings, according to information from SZ and NDR, it is assumed that Winterkorn’s lawyer Felix Dörr will address the health of his client on October 6th or later. If the ex-head of the company were only able to negotiate to a limited extent, then that would seriously affect the process. Dörr does not comment on request. “Our contact person is the court,” he says. But word got around to the Braunschweig public prosecutor’s office that Winterkorn’s state of health will become an issue.

By the time the court rules, the defendant is likely to be 75 years old and not healthier

It took them more than three and a half years to complete the investigation against Winterkorn and four other VW people and to bring charges. It then took almost a year and a half before the district court approved the indictment with a number of changes. The Economic Criminal Chamber has partly defused and partly exacerbated the allegations. Then there is the pandemic, which does not make large processes with many people in the hall any easier. Especially with a then almost 74-year-old defendant who belongs to the corona risk group.

Until the court decides on the fate of the ex-CEO, he should be 75 years old and not healthier. Added to this is the long time that Winterkorn was publicly accused of having known about fraud and not having prevented it. Having to live with unexplained allegations for so long is credited as mitigating the penalty in court. In media reports it is said that in the event of conviction, Winterkorn could face a maximum of ten years imprisonment for fraud in a gang, a fine or up to five years imprisonment for possible misleading investors. But if he was found guilty at his age, in his condition and after so many years of proceedings, would he really still have to go to prison? Hardly likely.

The case reveals a fundamental problem in the German judiciary. Large economic proceedings often take so long that, in the end, hardly anyone in the executive suite has to expect severe penalties, even if the damage is high. The emissions scandal has cost the VW group more than 20 billion dollars in the US and more than two billion euros in Germany. According to estimates by investigators, Germany’s largest tax scandal, called Cum-Ex, cost the tax authorities, i.e. the citizens, more than ten billion. Banks and their helpers have exempted the state by having the tax authorities reimbursed taxes on share deals that had not been paid before.

One of the alleged masterminds, the Frankfurt tax lawyer Hanno Berger, left for Switzerland almost eight years ago. He and other suspects were charged three years ago. Only now, in October, will the process begin at the Wiesbaden Regional Court. The court has rejected an arrest warrant against the tax attorney with which the investigators wanted to get him out of Switzerland. Berger approaches 70 and asserts through his lawyers that he is ill and unable to stand trial. So far he had repeatedly assured two things: he was innocent and he would face the trial. The latter is now over.

Winterkorn’s lawyer Dörr should not go that far. Dörr is considered a tough, straightforward criminal defense attorney among professional colleagues. As someone who fights with an open face. And with whom one can talk. If Dörr reports to the court and the public prosecutor’s office in the next few weeks that Winterkorn is not in the best shape, then that must be taken seriously. According to those involved in the proceedings, the Braunschweig Regional Court wants to hear twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday. Winterkorn has to travel from Munich, where he lives. Should he not get through two full days of negotiations, but only half a day, then the proceedings would drag on even longer.

The matter is complicated enough anyway. It is about emission standards, a manipulated engine control software that is not transparent to outsiders and an excessive emission of nitrogen oxides, which, according to the Federal Environment Agency, is harmful to the health of residents of busy streets. According to the indictment, car buyers were selling dirty diesel vehicles as clean and therefore at inflated prices. In addition, Winterkorn’s four co-defendants are said to have been guilty of tax evasion in a particularly serious case or of aiding and abetting.

Winterkorn himself rejects all allegations. He and his defense even deny that he was now even a member of a gang. Here the court goes far beyond the indictment, which does not mention a gang. The Commercial Criminal Chamber of the Regional Court of Braunschweig suspects that the technicians responsible for the manipulated software agreed to commit fraud from 2006 onwards. The then VW boss could have joined this gang in the spring of 2014 or in the spring or summer of 2015, when he learned of the manipulation, but did nothing about it. So the charge.

In other respects too, the court has more serious suspicions than the public prosecutor’s office. In the case of Winterkorn, a “crime period” has been possible since July 2012, when he may have learned of manipulation. And not only from May 2014, as the investigators assume. In July 2012, the court sees only an initial suspicion, which the Economic Criminal Chamber wants to investigate in the process. That is even more material for a procedure that is already in a mess.


Europe’s Risk Areas – The Return of the Virus – Politics

Fearful memories have long been awakened. “The intensive care units,” warns Harvard professor Miguel Hernán, “were our last line of defense.” Spain is about to face another serious medical emergency, said the advisor to the Spanish government on Twitter. Doctors from 62 Madrid hospitals also turned to the public this week: Scenes like those in March could soon be repeated. No country in Western Europe is currently being hit as hard by the second wave of the pandemic as Spain. Unlike in Italy, where a similar number of people died in the spring, the number of cases in Spain is now higher than it was then. The Ministry of Health reports around 9,000 new cases every day, and more than 500 people have died in the past seven days.

Not long ago it seemed that people could breathe a sigh of relief. Over the summer, the number of infected people rose steadily, but not the number of dead, which may have been due to the fact that it was mainly younger people who were infected, who had to expect milder courses. Now, however, the virus could have found its way back into older and more vulnerable groups and the number of deaths skyrocketed. According to research by the daily newspaper The country 95 percent of the intensive care beds in Madrid are occupied by Covid patients, and operating theaters have already been converted into intensive care units in some public hospitals.

The capital is considered to be the driver of the second wave in the country. In particular, in the poorer districts in the south of Madrid, many people live in a confined space, the number of cases there has long since exceeded 1,000 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants. Madrid’s conservative regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso had to react: A partial lockdown has been in effect in 37 areas of the capital region since Monday.

The opposition and many health care experts criticize this as too late and insufficient. In fact, it is difficult to place restrictions on individual districts, while the residents of the surrounding streets can move largely freely. In addition, the approximately 850,000 inhabitants of the affected areas are still allowed to leave them to take the often overcrowded buses or subways to work, school or to the doctor.

Nevertheless, Díaz Ayuso wants to do without a lockdown of the entire capital. A full curfew would be too damaging to the economy, she believes. In spring, she harshly criticized Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s nationwide lockdown. In the end, however, Díaz Ayuso had to take a step towards Sánchez, gritting his teeth. Under pressure from her own authorities, she asked for assistance from soldiers, police and doctors.


In France, the government had long been optimistic. You have to “live with the virus,” said President Emmanuel Macron when he visited the Tour de France last week. The President showed how it was: put on your mask, disinfect your hands and still have fun. The fun is now over for a while. Health Minister Olivier Véran showed the new cartography of the virus on Wednesday evening. After the curfew ended in May, France was divided into green, orange and red zones. You can now do without green and orange. There is only red, redder and the redest of all. The latest figures: 13 072 corona infections in 24 hours. Marseille was hit particularly hard. The infection rate exceeds 250 cases per 100,000 population. The “maximum alert level” now applies there, and the high alert level in Paris. Bars and restaurants in Marseille have to close on Saturday, initially for 14 days. In Paris and other major cities, they are only allowed to open until 10 p.m.

There was little protest or resistance to the curfew in March, but the new restrictions immediately led to a dispute. The green mayor of Marseille, Michèle Rubirola, immediately tweeted her anger to the world. The steps have not been agreed with her, she is demanding a ten-day delay. The Paris mayor, the socialist Anne Hidalgo, also complained about the lack of agreements with the government. The measures are “very strict” and “difficult to understand”.

The unusually heated dispute between the government and the country’s two largest cities contradicts Macron’s promise from the summer that the regions would be given more responsibility in fighting the pandemic. The rapid increase in infections also shows that the government’s testing strategy has failed. Macron had announced a million corona tests per week. Although this number has been reached, it takes an average of more than 48 hours, often a week, until a result is available. Tracking the contacts of an infected person hardly works either. And the official Corona app has to be called a flop. Only four percent of citizens downloaded it.

Czech Republic

On August 31st, the prime minister appeared very self-confident. At an international forum in Bled, Slovenia, Andrej Babiš said: “We are best in Covid.” Less than four weeks later, the Czech Republic is one of the countries in Europe where the virus is spreading the fastest. Far more than 2,000 people are infected every day in the country with just under eleven million inhabitants, the other day it was even more than 3,000. The Corona crisis threatens to turn into a prime minister’s crisis.

Health Minister Adam Vojtěch resigned on Monday. A pawn sacrifice, wrote the media. From the opposition point of view, it is Babiš who created chaos and confusion. “He now has to let the health minister speak and hold back,” says Olga Richterová, party vice-president of the pirates. They are the third strongest force in parliament and are currently overtaking all opposition parties in polls. They finally got the crisis team to resume its work. “Our plan for a second wave has been in place since June, but Babiš preferred to talk about other topics.”

The new Health Minister Roman Prymula, as the top epidemiologist, brought the Czech Republic through the beginning of the pandemic. The Czech Republic reacted with extremely strict measures, declared a national emergency on March 12, and closed all borders. Six days later, a general mask requirement was in place – even outdoors. When the Czech Republic reopened its borders at the end of May, just 8955 people were infected. In summer all measures were lifted, including the mask requirement. Now the number of infected people has risen to more than 55,000, there are more sick people than those who have recovered. “There were hardly any reports from our country of severe progress,” says Richterová. Maybe that made people careless. The orders of the new health minister are mild: taverns and bars have to close at 10 p.m., but events with up to 1000 people remain indoors.


Health Minister Rudi Anschober had already thought about it two weeks ago on ORF, but the specific announcement was a shock for the tourism nation: Yes, skiing, après-ski only while sitting. No wild parties, no dancing to loud pop music; Unfortunately, according to Minister Elisabeth Köstinger, winter tourism is about more than just winter sports. What more is involved becomes more and more clear to the Austrians every day on which more than 800 newly infected people are reported. Many levers have to be turned if the industry, which is so important for the country, is to survive. Federal states in the west have brought the curfew, even outdoors you can only eat while sitting, in ski schools there are maximum group sizes, in cable cars it is mandatory to wear a mask. The ball season has been canceled, tests, tests and tests are to be carried out everywhere in order to prevent the “corona crash” of tourism that is forecast in Austria’s media. But the panic is growing, the bad news is mounting. Germany and Belgium have declared Vienna and now Vorarlberg a risk area, and the Belgians also have Tyrol on the red list. Tourism accounts for 15 percent of the country’s economic output.

In the government and parliament, mutual accusations have long since begun. In the spring, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz was able to bask in positive reports across Europe that his coalition had managed the first corona wave well. Now there is criticism everywhere: too many restrictions lifted too early, chaotic crisis communication, sloppy laws, too late a reaction to the second wave. He himself had “wanted to tighten measures” earlier, so briefly insulted a few days ago, but it was not his “sole decision”. That was not well received by the Green coalition partner, and the dispute is growing among conservative politicians too. Lower Austria’s governor, Johanna Mikl-Leitner, said in a noticeably bad mood on Wednesday that when it comes to a crisis like this, she demands unity and clarity – also at the federal level. The citizens also demanded that.


UN general debate – Trump pulls the Chinese card – politics

That this 75th UN General Assembly would be different from all the others before was evident not least on the streets of New York. Usually half or part of Midtown Manhattan is closed when leaders from around the world come to the city to attend the annual United Nations Convention.

This year, however, because of the pandemic, no one personally traveled to the East River to the UN building, the speeches came off the tape. Outside, the traffic flowed unusually peacefully, while the delegates inside the assembly room listened to a video message from US President Donald Trump that was tough.

Trump was immediately at operating temperature, it took just under 20 seconds before he first described the coronavirus as the “China virus”. In doing so he set one of two subjects of his admission.

“The United Nations must hold China accountable.”

First, a widespread attack on China; he blamed the country for the spread of the virus.

Second: Trump now apparently finally wants the Nobel Peace Prize he has wanted since moving into the White House in 2017. He therefore devoted a not inconsiderable part of his speech to portraying himself as a great peacemaker. This may also have something to do with the fact that it is a thorn in his side that his predecessor and archenemy Barack Obama received this award in 2009 – a decision that was anything but undisputed.

This has never happened before: No head of state or government personally traveled to the General Assembly of the United Nations – UN flag in front of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AFP)

His handling of the corona crisis is Trump’s biggest problem in the current election campaign. There is evidence that he downplayed the danger against his better judgment, that he tried to ignore the crisis in the best case and to lie away in the worse.

200,000 people have died in the USA as a result of Covid-19, and the question is whether it could not have been significantly fewer if the president had acted earlier. That should be the main reason that Trump now used the stage of the United Nations to fire a broadside against China.

After he had reassured that a vaccine would soon be available, that the virus would be defeated and that a period of prosperity and peace would then begin, he turned into an attack on China, which was tough by his standards.

“In the early days of the virus, China banned domestic travel but allowed flights to leave the country and infect the world,” said the president. “The Chinese government and the World Health Organization – which is de facto controlled by China – have falsely stated that it is there is no transmission from person to person. ” These statements culminated in the demand: “The United Nations must hold China accountable.”

Warning of a new cold war: UN Secretary General António Guterres urged the USA and China to come to an understanding.

(Foto: Eskinder Debebe/United Nations/AP)

As if that still did not make it clear enough that Trump is seeking an open confrontation with China, he explained that China is contaminating the seas with plastic, that it is guilty of overfishing and that it is poisoning the world’s waters with mercury.

Again and again he pronounced the word China as if he were spitting a piece of chewing gum on the floor. Trump’s speech was marked by aggressiveness and contempt. He let these passages culminate in the sentence: “All you want is to punish America. I don’t stand for that.”

After that angry start, Trump changed his tone to clarify his second concern. The attack on China is likely to stem primarily from electoral reasons: he can present himself to his base as a strong man and deny the guilt for the many Covid 19 deaths.

The second part was about a personal concern, one could say: a project of vanity. Trump spoke about how the US had become a peacemaker country under his leadership.

75th Anniversary of the United Nations - USA

The chairman of the UN General Assembly, the Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkır, speaks at the ceremony for the 75th anniversary of the United Nations at the General Assembly in New Vork – due to the pandemic in front of almost empty seats.

(Foto: Eskinder Debebe/United Nations/dpa)

He referred, among other things, to the Abraham Agreement signed a few days ago in front of the White House, which is intended to normalize relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. The US had conveyed in the agreement that it could indeed represent a historic breakthrough.

Trump said other Arab states wanted to join. “No more blood in the sand,” he said, “these days are hopefully over.” It is the dawn of a new Middle East.

He also said that he had mediated between Serbia and Kosovo and that he was also in the process of bringing peace to Afghanistan. Here he is particularly committed to the rights of women. He took up the motive that he was an advocate for women’s rights worldwide, which, in view of his many documented derogatory statements about women, almost amounted to a reinvention of himself. At times it seemed as if he believed that they didn’t read any newspapers in the UN and didn’t see what was happening in the world.

The United States ambassador speaks as if she were Trump’s campaign manager

Trump’s speech was initiated by Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the UN. She said, “I am introducing someone who has the core goal of the United Nations in their hearts: peace.” She actually meant her boss by that, and that set the subject of the Nobel Peace Prize. It is clear, she said, that world leaders listened carefully when Trump spoke. Two years ago, Trump was laughed at in the General Assembly when he boasted too badly, but that’s not what she meant. Finally, as if she were not the UN ambassador but Trump’s campaign leader, she said: “President Donald J. Trump has kept his promises to the American people and the world is a more peaceful place.”

Actually, it was expected that Trump would mainly talk about sanctions against Iran. The fact that he positions himself against China with such intensity came as a surprise. His lobbying for the Nobel Prize, however, no longer surprises anyone. He showed that Trump is really serious about this by closing his speech with the words: “God bless the United Nations.”


The group of 16 against the CDU majority – politics

The letter is only a few lines long, but it is not lacking in clarity. “Dear Mr. Seehofer,” write the authors. In view of “the terrible pictures from the burning Moria and the inhumane situation in the camp, we turn to you with an urgent request to offer Greece concrete help”. Germany and Europe could and should do more. It is “now not primarily about shaping a common European refugee policy”, but about “alleviating obvious human hardship”. Germany must therefore take in 5,000 refugees from Greece “if possible together with other EU countries, but if necessary alone, too.” In a humanitarian emergency, Germany should “not remain passive or wait for others”.

This letter to Seehofer was signed by 16 members of the Union parliamentary group – among them the board members Michael Brand, Antje Tillmann and Roderich Kiesewetter as well as the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Norbert Röttgen. If the initiators had taken their time, even more MPs would have signed. But it was important to Röttgen & Co. to get their message across quickly.

How to deal with the horror of Moria? That is of course also a concern for the CDU. And the group of 16 is one pole in the debate. The other includes MPs such as the domestic policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Mathias Middelberg. You vehemently reject a German solo effort because that would create the wrong incentives and the other EU states could then sit back and relax. Friedrich Merz and most of the Union faction also belong to this camp. Armin Laschet, next to Röttgen and Merz third candidate for the CDU chairmanship, stands in between.

Laschet: NRW takes in up to 1000 refugees from Moria

At the beginning of August Laschet visited the Moria camp himself. At that time, he insisted on the unreasonable situation there. Laschet said he experienced a “cry of desperation”. People must be helped. That was before the fire in Moria, now the situation there is even more terrible than it was then. The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister has announced that his state wants to accept 1,000 refugees. But at the same time he warned against the German going it alone. Laschet did not follow Röttgen’s request to Seehofer to single-handedly take in 5000 refugees if necessary.

Röttgen does not attack his two competitors for the CDU chairmanship directly. But he makes it clear that he considers their positions to be inadequate. “We have to react quickly and appropriately to this humanitarian emergency, and we can do that too,” said Röttgen Süddeutsche Zeitung. It is a “demarcable humanitarian emergency”, in which one can therefore “help without setting false incentives”. And the willingness to help is “there, too: There are ten large cities in Germany that want to take in refugees – federal states such as North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria have also agreed”.

Röttgen therefore not only considers what the federal government has offered so far to be too little. He also thinks that this is a situation in which nobody should duck politically. “As a candidate for the CDU chairmanship, it is particularly important to me to make it clear what a Christian-democratic position should look like in such a case,” said Röttgen. And his guiding principle is: “We must reflect on the strength of our principles of responsibility – and must not be afraid to act humanely.”


Corona in the USA – one party, hundreds of thousands infected – politics

No country has as many corona deaths as the USA. Now there is some evidence that a biker festival a month ago is responsible for a fifth of all new infections that were registered across the country in August.


Hubert Wetzel

The Black Hills in South Dakota are beautiful. They rise from the prairie like a gray-green wall. The land used to belong to the Sioux, then the whites came, they dug for gold and built cities. Today, tourists in particular come there to admire the rock face at Mount Rushmore, on which the heads of four US presidents are carved. And every year in August the motorcyclists come. For eighty years the “Sturgis Motorcycle Rally” has been taking place in Sturgis, a village on the northern edge of the Black Hills, to which hundreds of thousands of bikers come rattling on Harley-Davidson and other heavy machines. They get drunk in pubs and listen to hard rock bands. It was the same this year. The 80th Sturgis Rally took place from August 7th to 16th, and more than 460,000 visitors came to the meeting. And there was also Sars-CoV-2 – the coronavirus.


Woodward’s book on Trump is a gift for Biden – politics

And again the question that everyone asks themselves anew after each revelation: What does that mean now? For Donald Trump, for his re-election? In the past few weeks alone, four books have appeared about the president, written by his niece, his former lawyer, a journalist for the New York Times – and now from Bob Woodward, the reporter legend who is publishing his book called “Anger” these days. The publication of these books always follows the same pattern: The newspapers report on the first extracts. The story dominates you, maybe two days in the headlines. The author gives some television interviews. After that, everyone turns to the next agitator.

It’s understandable too. Much of what is in these books is shocking, and none of them shed any good light on the President. But these works do not paint a new picture of him either. Trump may continue to withhold his tax records, but in other ways he’s more transparent than any previous officer before him. Anyone who really wants to know that there is a man with a problematic character in the White House, who wants to know that chaos and incompetence shape the work of their government, has long known. Everything can be observed publicly, every day.

Probably that best explains why most discovery books have a half-life of just a few days. Will it be any different now with Bob Woodward’s second book on Trump?

There is a lot to be said for it. This time it’s not about any insults Trump has made up for his opponents, it’s also less about which dictator Trump has showered with praise or who of Trump’s ministers is secretly appalled by what is going on in the White House – although all of this also occurs with Woodward.

This time it’s about the topic that overshadows everything else this election year: the corona pandemic, from which almost 200,000 people have already died in the USA, more than in any other country. The virus still has the country under control, and even though the number of cases has recently fallen, around 37,000 people are still infected every day.

The heart of Woodward’s book is Trump’s admission that he was aware of the threat posed by the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, but that he downplayed the risk for a long time. “This is deadly stuff,” Trump told Woodward. “You just breathe in the air and that’s how it spreads. It’s clever, that’s tricky. It’s also more deadly than even our violent flu.”

That was on February 7th, during one of the first of 18 interviews Woodward conducted and taped with the President for his book. Publicly, however, Trump expressed himself very differently. The virus is no worse than normal flu, it will soon go away. He repeated this message at every opportunity, in the five campaign appearances he made that spring, in television interviews and at events at the White House. Trump told Woodward: “I always wanted to downplay it. I still like to downplay it because I don’t want to panic.”

You could also put it another way: Trump lied to the Americans. At least that’s how Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden sees it. “It was a life and death betrayal of the American people,” tweeted Biden. He called Trump’s behavior “almost criminal,” a gross neglect of his official duties for which tens of thousands of Americans would have paid with their lives. “It’s a shame.” No doubt, Woodward’s book is a gift to Biden and his Democrats. They have long been targeting Trump’s failure to cope with the pandemic – the fact that there have been no tests for so long and no national strategy. Now Woodward has given them protection.

This also has to do with the tapes, of which the Watergate revelator has already passed on excerpts to the media. This time it is not anonymous sources incriminating Trump, not even statements from second or third hand – but Trump himself. A few hours after the first excited push messages, the president’s quotes were already part of campaign spots for the Lincoln Project, an increasingly toxic group by Republican Trump opponents. It won’t stick with their videos.

So the outrage is unlikely to subside as quickly as on previous occasions. But will it also change something? Will it cost Trump votes now that ballot papers are already being sent out in many states? That is a completely different question.

In the conservative media, at Fox News and on the wide-reaching right-wing Internet portals, coverage of Woodward’s book essentially consists of two arguments. First, there was no contradiction between Trump’s public statements and those of health experts in his administration. The experts also appeased at an early stage and advised against wearing masks.

Trump’s campaign team on Wednesday circulated an interview Anthony Fauci had given a television station. In it, the immunologist looks a little pained when he says, “I don’t see any discrepancies between what we said to the President and what he said to the public.” In addition – this is the second argument – the President acted absolutely right when he tried to save the Americans from panic. Every government does it like that, it is only sensible.

It goes unmentioned, however, that after a few weeks, Trump’s health experts began to urgently call for people to keep their distance and to wear masks. Trump rarely joined these calls, but rather publicly questioned them. It also goes unmentioned that Trump is very much keen to stir up panic on many other issues. During the election campaign, he talks about left-wing extremist gangs that would burn down America’s cities and soon also lay the suburbs to rubble and ashes. “Fear is what drives him,” commented the Washington Post. But what Woodward’s revelations will mean for Trump’s re-election will only be known in November.