Without good concepts and solidarity, quarantine is not only sad, but also pointless. Image: hippopx.com, CC0 1.0
Why the self-isolation imperative does not work after a Corona infection and what steps were necessary. A field report
On 8. December it got me. On a flight from Munich to Istanbul I was infected with the Corona virus, probably from a feverish passenger sitting behind me. It was a shock – and it became an educational experience about the reality of quarantine duties. Before the morning flight back from Istanbul I had been tested negative. Without such a test result one does not even enter the airport there.
If this had been the case on the outbound flight in Munich as well, my “Super-Spreader” would not have been able to get into the airport and onto the plane. But Germany does not take the quarantine obligations too seriously. This is probably the cause of my infection.
Actually, a new test in Munich would not have been necessary, but I wanted to be sure. So I had myself tested again at the airport and drove to the office in downtown Munich. In the late afternoon I got the e-mail with the result. I travel a lot for work and have received such messages several times. It is always a bit exciting. Relieved one reads then as a rule “negative”. This time I was shocked, when suddenly a “positive” appeared.
Strict quarantine was now a matter of course for me. Only where, that was the first question of conscience: home to the family, there keep distance, but be well cared for? No, that seemed too risky, I stayed in my small office. Here in Munich I also had friends and there are delivery services. So, I thought, it had to work.
But the two weeks became a lesson in the practical difficulties of a quarantine, alone and unprotected. After this experience, I am convinced that we will not get this virus under control with the current lockdowns. In contrast to the Far East, Germany and our neighboring countries do not know total isolation of infected people. We admonish and leave the infected in isolation to themselves. (Corona app: What happens after the lockdown??)
Strict isolation is difficult
Isolation means accordingly mostly a (careful) living together with the family or the partner – and that almost always ends with another infection, or even with several infections. Or one lives alone. This corresponded to my situation, helped by the location in Munich’s city center: delivery services within reach and several friends and neighbors. That could not be so difficult.
But very quickly it became clear that a supply by neighbors and friends is hardly to organize. Because suddenly they are all afraid. Delivery services remain as a way out, but limited, only with an expensive menu. And even breakfast becomes a problem after a few days. And out in the country, whether it’s a village or a small town, you often look in vain for delivery services.
It quickly became clear why most of the infected constantly break the isolation. Because alone the supply for the daily food forces many to leave their quarters again and again. In addition, there is of course the longing for fresh air, for movement and perhaps also for social contacts. Isolation is not really taken seriously. The Corona app actually encourages people to break isolation. It has as a priority to record and warn encounters with infected people. What a contradiction.
Although isolation, quarantine, a legal requirement for infected persons and possible contact persons. But ultimately, the prescription of strict isolation, although medically required, in Germany is theory. The “free access” is tolerated. And the authorities are quite powerless.
The daily newspaper The World recently surveyed all federal states about the controls of the quarantine obligations and possible forced housing. As a result, there is no uniformity of enforcement anywhere, there is little coercion, and there are no checks and balances. Masks are controlled, but quarantine breakers are hardly controlled.
How could it be possible? An infected walker is indistinguishable from a healthy one. Australia and several of the comparatively more successful nations use IT for this purpose.
The smartphone may monitor infected persons
In a recent article linked above at Telepolis I had referred to the situation in Taiwan. There the smartphone of every infected person is loaded with a monitoring software. Those who do not have a cell phone are lent one. The telecom operator is instructed to notify the authorities if the infected person leaves the registered cell or switches off the phone. And the authorities will check whether the infected person is in the specified building with daily calls or SMS queries.
However, the smartphone data is not used for tracking purposes. Personal questioning is considered sufficient. Thus, the regulatory function is limited only to the determination of the violation of the law. Is this compatible with our data protection laws??
Yes, says Christoph Degenhart, professor emeritus of constitutional and administrative law and media law: “In principle, it is possible for sick or suspected sick people to be segregated.” Section 30 of the Infection Protection Act provides for this possibility. A judicial order is required, but this is routine in the event of a threat to public health.
The zero goal
Without consistently enforced isolation, we will never achieve zero infections, a requirement of the #ZeroCovid initiative. “The goal must not be 200, 50 or 25 new infections, it must be zero”, it says on their homepage.
An initiative that is logical in itself and is supported by numerous virologists. Cause an incidence of 50 will build up again. But we will achieve a zero goal only if we immediately and rigorously isolate each new infection. This is inevitable especially in case of low incidences.
Since we want to return to open borders in Europe, this requires a very special effort – and as my experience shows, also in terms of accommodation.