The fourth wave of the pandemic is underway in Germany – and there are real concerns that there won’t be enough vaccination coverage to get through winter unscathed.
That’s why businesses – and politicians – have been discussing whether the so-called ‘2G rule’ should be enforced. That would mean only vaccinated (geimpft) and recovered (genesen) people could visit many indoor areas such as restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as cinemas and gyms. Most of Germany currently has the 3G rule in place, which allows unvaccinated people to enter with a negative Covid test (getestet).
Now a new study from the Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen (RWI) says further lockdown measures would cause serious financial damage to affected sectors, prompting more debate on the best strategy for Germany.
Last winter, the widespread shutdown of culture, events, tourism and hospitality industries cost around €70 billion to affected businesses and organisations.
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The RWI said it didn’t expect the cost of the damage to be as high if another form of lockdown happened this winter, reported the Tagesschau.
But without a significant increase in vaccinations, there could well be another partial shutdown in contact-intensive services, believes study director Torsten Schmidt.
“The number of unvaccinated is simply still too high,” he said, adding that currently, 38 percent of those over the age of 12 are unvaccinated.
The latest data shows 66.5 percent of the population has had at least one jab, and 62.2 percent are fully vaccinated.
If the infection figures and hospital occupancies increase in the coming winter, meaning that services like gyms, museums or hospitality have to partially close down, there could be a loss of €52 billion, according to Schmidt’s calculations.
Compared to today, this would correspond to a loss of 0.6 percentage points of the growth in gross domestic product (GDP).
Michael Hüther, of the Institute of the German Economy (IW) in Cologne, also believes that the risk of a complete lockdown like the one last winter is relatively low – but that a partial lockdown, as calculated by RWI, is possible.
In that case, “the market shakeout in these industries, as we have already experienced, would continue,” he said. In other words, some sectors would suffer hugely.
2G rule ‘less harmful to economy’
While opinions in the relevant industries differ widely on whether 2G or 3G entry is the right way to go, 2G (excluding the unvaccinated) would leave less damage compared to a partial shutdown, says the study.
According to RWI’s scenario, if vaccination rates slowly increased, 75 percent of the population would be vaccinated by the end of the year.
A consistently applied 2G rule would then exclude 25 percent of people from many public activities, such as at events or gyms. Excluding the unvaccinated would then only leave an economic loss of €13 billion and the GDP would be less affected, estimates the RWI study.
That equals about a quarter of the cost of the partial shutdown, according to the calculations.
‘Politicians must take responsibility for measures’
The economists say the good news is that the economic damage is not expected to be as large as in the previous wave because there are now instruments that can be used to limit the costs.
Study director Schmidt from RWI advocates introducing 2G regionally in parts of Germany where hospital bed occupancy rates rise.
Meanwhile, IW Director Hüther believes it is important not to make this regulation the responsibility of individual restaurateurs or other entrepreneurs.
Hamburg recently gave businesses the option of introducing 2G or to stick to 3G. Hüther says that local politicians should instead be making the decision on this.
Politicians have so far pledged that there will be no lockdown for vaccinated people this autumn.
However, a decision on Germany’s strategy is more likely to happen after the federal elections which take place on September 26th.
Market shakeout – (die) Marktbereinigung
Hospital occupancies – (die) Krankenhausbelegungen
Risk/danger – (die) Gefahr
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