Germans ‘feel least free’ of all Europeans during pandemic

Nowhere in Europe have people felt more inhibited by 18 months of Covid-19 restrictions than in Germany, a new study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) finds.

Germans 'feel least free' of all Europeans during pandemic
A mask wearing sign in Düsseldorf. Photo: dpa | Federico Gambarini

Just one in ten Germans currently ‘feel free’ in their everyday life, while almost half say that they ‘don’t feel free’, the study published on Wednesday found.

The results put Germany at the bottom of a table of Europeans in 12 EU member states who were asked about their level of freedom now compared to since the pre-pandemic days.

Asked how free they felt before the pandemic hit, two thirds of Germans answered that they ‘felt free’ beforehand.

The authors note that Germans’ very negative response comes despite the fact that Berlin largely shied away from stricter measures such as curfews that were introduced in countries such as France and Italy.

But the feeling of lost freedom was expressed across the continent, with an average of 22 percent saying they don’t feel free. Hungarians and Spaniards were least likely to report a loss of freedom with just 11 and 12 percent respectively saying the don’t feel free.

SEE ALSO: Will Germans continue wearing face masks after the pandemic?

ECFR director Mark Leonard said that the report’s findings were concerning.

“While, in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, it appeared that Europeans were coming together and coalescing around a unified response, stark divides have since emerged that could be as serious as those during the euro and refugee crises,” he stated.

Describing the climate as “fragile”, he said that Europeans were deeply divided over the issue of losing civil liberties and over trust in governments’ motives for imposing lockdowns.

Support for lockdowns

Among Germans, a loss of freedom was most felt most strongly by those who said that they had faced economic hardship during the crisis.

Generally though, a broad consensus in German society still holds around the government response.

Some 40 percent of Germans reported believing that the government got the restrictions ‘about right’ while 40 percent thought they were not strict enough. Just 20 percent felt they were too strict.

The report cautions though that support for Berlin’s measures is “superficial” and “hides very high levels of discontent.” It notes high levels of dissatisfaction even among supporters of government parties, with 42 percent of CDU voters and 43 per cent of Social Democrats complaining of a lack of freedom.

Hungarians were most likely to express satisfaction with their government’s interventions; Swedes were most likely to say that their government should have done more; Poles felt most keenly that their government had gone too far.

At the same time, the survey showed that two thirds of Germans said that the virus had not had an impact on their lives, either in terms of sickness, bereavement or economic effects.

Only Danes were more likely to report not experiencing negative consequences.

The survey was conducted between May 20th and 27th and involved a representative survey of 3,001 Germans.

SEE ALSO: Defenders vs. explorers – Germany ‘divided into two bitterly opposed ideological camps’

Member comments

  1. I know this article points this out, but this is a stunning and hilarious result to me, Germany had easily some of the most relaxed and unenforced regulations during lockdown, and yet the biggest sentiment of victimhood…. sounds about right.

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Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

German health ministers say that tougher Covid restrictions should come back into force if a serious wave emerges in autumn.

Germany should prepare for Covid wave in autumn, ministers warn

Following a video meeting on Monday, the health ministers of Germany’s 16 states said tougher restrictions should be imposed again if they are needed. 

“The corona pandemic is not over yet – we must not be deceived by the current declining incidences,” said Saxony-Anhalt’s health minister Petra Grimm-Benne, of the Social Democrats, who currently chairs the Conference of Health Ministers (GMK).

According to the GMK, new virus variants are expected to appear in autumn and winter. Over the weekend, federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) also warned that the more dangerous Delta variant could return to Germany. “That is why the federal Ministry of Health should draw up a master plan to combat the corona pandemic as soon as possible and coordinate it with the states,” Grimm-Benne said.

Preparations should also include an amendment of the Infection Protection Act, ministers urged. They want to see the states given powers to react to the infection situation in autumn and winter. They called on the government to initiate the legislative process in a timely manner, and get the states actively involved.

The current Infection Protection Act expires on September 23rd this year. Germany has loosened much of its Covid restrictions in the last months, however, face masks are still compulsory on public transport as well as on planes. 

READ ALSO: Do people in Germany still have to wear Covid masks on planes?

The health ministers said that from autumn onwards, it should be possible for states to make masks compulsory indoors if the regional infection situation calls for it. Previously, wearing a Covid mask was obligatory in Germany when shopping and in restaurants and bars when not sitting at a table. 

Furthermore, the so-called 3G rule for accessing some venues and facilities – where people have to present proof of vaccination, recovery, or a negative test – should be implemented again if needed, as well as other infection protection rules, the ministers said. 

Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek, of the CSU, welcomed the ministers’ unanimous call for a revision of the Infection Protection Act. “The states must be able to take all necessary infection protection measures quickly, effectively, and with legal certainty,” he said.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU) warned that no one should “lull themselves into a false sense of security”.

“We must now prepare for the colder season and use the time to be able to answer important questions about the immunity of the population or the mechanisms of infection chains,” he said.

On Tuesday, Germany reported 86,253 Covid infections within the latest 24 hour period, as well as 215 Covid-related deaths. The 7-day incidence stood at 437.6 infections per 100,000 people. However, experts believe there could be twice as many infections because lots of cases go unreported. 

READ ALSO: Five things to know about the Covid pandemic in Germany right now