Schleswig-Holstein does not want to implement some corona measures. In an interview, Prime Minister Daniel Günther explains his plan for the coming months.
On Wednesday it was decided to extend and tighten the previous partial lockdown. But Daniel Günther (CDU) only wants to participate partially. The Prime Minister of Schleswig-Holstein has chosen a separate route. He justifies this with the low rate of infections in the state: in the past seven days, there were only about 47 new cases per 100,000 residents. Only Mecklenburg-Vorpommern has fewer cases. In an interview with Chillreport, Günther explains the “Schleswig-Holstein path” and how to proceed.
Chillreport: Mr. Günther, once again at the conference of prime ministers with the chancellor, only resolutions for the coming weeks were passed. Why is there no long-term strategy to combat corona?
Daniel Günther: If there was someone who could tell us exactly how infection rates will develop over the next few months, we could listen and act on their suggestions. I understand people need scheduling security, but we just need to keep looking at the infection process and reassess it. We have now scheduled security until January, which is a good thing at first and better than deciding again on December 20th.
The recently adopted Infection Protection Act stipulates that measures must always be taken before four weeks. The federal government reduced the options for longer planning. Is that a shortcoming?
In the current situation, five weeks would actually have been a better planning horizon. But this is also a special situation because Christmas and New Year fall within this period, and of course you cannot define laws for each individual situation.
Anyone who belongs to a risk group should be able to purchase 15 FFP2 masks cheaply in the future. Calculated for winter, that would be a mask that can be used on a weekly basis – so weekly shopping and more is not allowed. Correct?
I’ll leave it to you how you want to interpret that. But I think offering protective masks for these groups at a reasonable price is definitely the way to go. At the moment, we are already working to keep our values as low as possible in January. And then we’ll get vaccinations to better protect people.
But with the vaccinations it will probably take a while. The resolution states that the federal government must campaign for a European ban on skiing holidays by January 10. Will the slopes be full again from 11 January?
School holidays are almost everywhere in Europe until January 11 – otherwise the slopes would be packed. We are determined to cut back on skiing this year, I think this is the way to go. We need to see what comes after January 11 – but basically I can only call people to spend the Christmas holidays at home.
Promenade in Kiel: In the coming month ten people can meet in Schleswig-Holstein. (Source: peno photo / image images)
They do not want to implement a number of measures and yesterday spoke about a “special Schleswig-Holstein path”. Is your country separate from Germany?
Not at all, we are of course part of it! And of course a nationally uniform set of rules is required. We are taking the measures very consistently and have had tougher measures in recent months. I can see that we have weathered the crisis well so far.
In Schleswig-Holstein they now allow various special relaxation: nail studios, massage practices, animal parks and zoos are allowed to reopen. Why?
That’s right, but the list of openings ends here. My experts have told me they see no reason to extend the restrictions there. In zoos you can keep your distance, because you move in the open air and the risk of infection is also low when taking care of your body.
In the other federal states, only five people from two households will be allowed to meet in the future, in your country there are still ten people. Why?
Quite simply: because it has always been the case with us. And remember: in the 5-person rule, children up to the age of 14 are not included at all, they are, as it were, not included. I think such an arrangement is more likely to confuse people. We have been saying for weeks: the limit has been reached with ten people.
So the ten person limit is nothing new to you at Christmas. Are you worried that people will be carefree during the holidays?
I do not believe that. There is no reason to believe that it will go particularly well. The people in the country are reliable, it doesn’t even go up and down with the number allowed – we don’t want people to ride a roller coaster like that.
You recently said that it was not the job of the regulatory authorities to check at Christmas whether there were 10 or 12 people in the household. Isn’t that a permit not to stick to the restrictions?
No! I wanted to say that no one has to worry that we are walking through the residential areas for no reason and the police will just ring the bell. But if there are really big parties happening, regulatory authorities will act against it too.
If the number of infections rises sharply in individual circles, how do you respond specifically?
I cannot say today what we will agree on in detail. We can still follow the contacts closely, which makes it easier. In those circles where the figures are rising, tougher exit restrictions are of course conceivable. We just always look very carefully at what the numbers are and then respond.
Since you like to orient yourself by the numbers, let’s look at an example in Schleswig-Holstein: In the Dithmarschen district, there is only one intensive care unit with 44 beds. 41 of them are documented – and no patient is being treated there for Covid-19. Do not you worry?
The hospital capacities are not strictly separated by district, so of course cooperation takes place across district boundaries.
The incidence in the district of Dithmarschen is 34 infections in seven days per 100,000 inhabitants. Well below the 50 limit, which is considered a major brand. Although the hospitals there are on the edge of capacity, do you still have to relax the corona rules there?
We do not separate each circle individually. But of course it is true that the value of infections per day doesn’t really tell you how much it can be alleviated. Maybe we prime ministers should rethink this concept.
A total of 28 vaccination centers are currently planned in the larger towns of Schleswig-Holstein. A lot of people in your country live in the country – how are older people supposed to get to the vaccination centers in town when they can barely make it to the nearest supermarket?
We have good coverage of vaccination centers and made sure that they are easily accessible by public transport, you can always get there easily. It is clear that logistical assistance is also needed in the reception of vulnerable groups. But we also prepare that carefully.
Is it conceivable that taxi vouchers for the elderly may be introduced?
That is certainly conceivable, but the exact measures have not yet been determined. We are currently working on the concept for vaccination and I am very pleased that all studies show that the willingness to vaccinate is highest in Schleswig-Holstein. So I am in good spirits that we will arrange this properly.
What can Germany learn from the “Schleswig-Holstein road”?
We introduced a curfew at an early stage and enforced mask requirements. I think I would call that the “Schleswig-Holstein Way”. But I think in these times you shouldn’t stand out by saying, “We’ve done everything right and let’s see how things are going here.” You have to be humble to see that the number of infections is now developing differently in all states. At the moment we have very low infection rates. I think what sets us apart is that we’ve always acted very, very consistently from the start. And that’s the way to go into a pandemic.
Mr. Günther, thank you for speaking to us.