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Germany ‘undermining confidence’ in pandemic measures with bad communication

Germany's Council of Experts has claimed that the government risks alienating and confusing the public with its poor communication around Covid.

A Covid sign outside a bar in Starnberg
A sign outside a bar in Starnberg tells customers to wear an FFP2 mask when entering. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lennart Preiss

In a statement released on Sunday, the Council of Covid Experts, which includes the Robert Koch Institute’s Lothar Wieler and high-profile virologist Christian Drosten, gave a damning assessment of the government’s crisis communication so far in the pandemic. 

“Most citizens want to actively contribute to ending the pandemic and behave according to applicable and reasonable rules,” they wrote. However, “a lack of consistency of available information, its assessments and the resulting recommendations contributes to uncertainty among the population”.

“This provides a target for misinformation and disinformation, undermines confidence in government action and jeopardises the success of important measures to protect health.”

In what is so far the fifth position paper released by the panel, the experts urged the government to step up its game and implement “responsive, evidence-based, target-group and user-specific risk and health communication” as a matter of urgency.

Their strategy involved four key stages: the first was gathering of the best available knowledge; the second was translating the data into easily understandable, target-group specific information; the third was disseminating this data via “modern communication channels” and the fourth was showing willingness to review and adapt the strategy, if necessary.  

READ ALSO: ANALYSIS: Are Germany’s Covid rule changes backed up by science?

The news comes just weeks after the Ministry of Health made important changes to both the ‘vaccinated’ and ‘recovered’ by quietly updating the guidance on the Paul Ehrlich Institute website.

People who’d had a Covid infection suddenly found that the amount of time they could rely on their ‘recovered’ status in bars, restaurants and other venues had been halved from six months to three, while people vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson found they suddenly needed an extra jab to count as fully vaccinated.

Speaking to The Local after the changes, a number of readers complained about the lack of reliable information and “confusing” communication from the government. 

“It’s very confusing trying to figure out the current rules,” one reader said, while others said the communication from the government was “infuriating”.

READ ALSO: ‘Hard to keep up’: Your verdict on Germany’s ever-changing Covid rules

In a final barb at parliamentarians and officials, the expert council claimed there wasn’t a single institution or authority in Germany who had followed best practices so far in its communications.

Its four crisis communication steps should now be implemented “quickly” to win back public trust, it argued. 

Member comments

      1. If you could see the screen im looking at with my comments awaiting moderation. And alot of my previous comments tend to dissappear

        1. If the topic is covid restrictions, it’s more like 8/5. I think that comments with URLs require moderation btw… or are you getting that for other comments as well?

          1. Anything contrary to the narrative. Usually gets taken down i started throwing out the names of the websites but that didn’t work either.

            I dont have an opinion of gay marriage. Or berlin. I doubt I will comment on here anymore if they just get rid of covid restrictions. I’ve seen more damage from the restrictions than from covid. And these people are just ignored. In a supposedly emergency thats not right.

            And by moderation it never gets settled.

  1. The government hasn’t used anything other than pure speculation. They’ve been wrong on just about everything. Olaf Sholz and lauterbach seem to actually get a kick out of constantly changing the rules. they only want more lockdowns and suffering. They aggressively chase for lockdowns and are reluctant to even think of opening up. I doubt anything will change until they get their vaccine mandates. Would be interesting to see how many shares they have in these pharmaceutical companies. Because 3 jabs per person per year is alot of profit. < at the rate they've changed vaccination status i would think it reasonable to expect 4 per year. To keep it simple. You cannot comply your way out of tyranny.

  2. So many so called ‘Experts’ with little disclosure of income sources, especially in the Pharmaceutical area which is purported to be rife with ‘Payments’. Perhaps ‘full disclosure’ could help put the public’s mind at rest.

    Unfortunately, the major ‘Experts’ from RKI and similar appear somewhat lacking in coordinated response, being virtual slaves to slewed ‘Case’ numbers. Of note is the considerable good statistics from RKI which are abused by said ‘Experts’.

    As for Politicians, a joke of inconsistency.

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TRAVEL NEWS

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

Germany's cut-price transport ticket is supposed to go on sale next Monday - but a battle over financing is threatening to torpedo the government's plans.

German states threaten to block €9 ticket in Bundesrat

An feud between the federal and state governments intensified on Monday as state leaders threatened to block the government’s most recent energy package when it is put to a vote in the Bundesrat on Friday. 

The battle relates to the government’s plans for a budget transport ticket that would allow people to travel on local and regional transport around Germany for just €9 per month.

Though the 16 states have agreed to support the ticket, transport ministers are arguing that the low-cost option will blow a hole in their budgets and lead to potential price hikes once autumn rolls around.

They claim that current funding promised by the Federal Transport Ministry doesn’t go far enough.

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“If the federal government believes it can be applauded on the backs of the states for a three-month consolation prize and that others should foot the bill, then it has made a huge mistake,” Bavaria’s Transport Minister Christian Bernreiter (CSU) told Bild on Monday.

The government has pledged €2.5 billion to the states to pay for the measure, as well as financial support for income lost during the Covid crisis. 

Transport Minister Volker Wissing. of the Free Democrats (FDP), said states would also receive the revenue of the €9 ticket from customers who take advantage of the offer. 

“For this ‘9 for 90 ticket’, the €2.5 billion is a complete assumption of the costs by the federal government,” said Wissing on Thursday. “In addition, the states are also allowed to keep the €9 from the ticket price, so they are very well funded here.”

Transport Minister Volker Wissing

Transport Minister Volker Wissing (FDP) speaks ahead of a G7 summit in Düsseldorf.

However, federal states want a further €1.5 billion in order to increase staff, deal with extra fuel costs and to plan for the expansion of local transport in Germany.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Reinhard Meyer (SPD), told Bild that there would be “no approval (on Friday) as long as the federal government does not provide additional funds.”

Baden-Württemberg’s Transport Minister Winfried Hermann (Greens) also warned that “the entire package of fuel rebate and €9 euro ticket could fail in the Bundesrat” if the government doesn’t agree to the state’s demands on funding.

The Bundesrat is Germany’s upper house of parliament, which is comprised of MPs serving in the state governments. Unlike in the Bundestag, where the traffic-light coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) has a majority, the CDU is the largest party in the Bundesrat. 

What is the €9 ticket?

The €9 monthly ticket was announced early this year as part of a package of energy relief measures for struggling households.

With the price of fuel rising dramatically amid supply bottlenecks and the war in Ukraine, the traffic-light coalition is hoping to encourage people to switch to public transport over summer instead. 

The ticket will run for three months from the start of June to the end of August, and will allow people to travel nationwide on local and regional transport. Long-distance trains like IC, EC and ICE trains will not be covered by the ticket. 

It should be available to purchase from May 23rd, primarily via ticket offices and the DB app and website. 

Some regional operators, including Berlin-Brandenburg’s VBB, have also pledged to offer the ticket at ticket machines.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get hold of the €9 travel ticket in Berlin

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