No large meetings, no parties, and only some open shops — Germany envisions the pandemic lasting into 2021, and while it is already making plans for eventually relaxing the quarantine, it will be a long time before things go back to normal.
Our society’s efforts to stay home, socially isolate, and flatten the curve is an unprecedented effort. It’s never been done before in human history, and no quarantine has ever come close to the current scale of things.
But this is just the first step.
This is not about destroying the virus or making sure that it never causes massive problems. This whole massive effort is only meant to ensure that our medical systems don’t get completely overwhelmed — but the virus won’t just go away.
It will take 12 months to have a vaccine (on an optimistic timeline), and after the first wave is hopefully quelled, we need to ensure that we’re not getting a second wave that will be even worse. So when the quarantine is eventually eased, the local and national governments will need to take measures to limit the almost-inevitable spread of disease. Simply put, we need to make sure we don’t ruin everything by going out and spreading the disease once again.
So how do we do that?
According to a draft document seen by Reuters, Germany’s plan sounds something like this:
- protective masks will be compulsory in key areas (public transit, factories, etc);
- borders control will not be as strict as they are now, but will be stricter than before the pandemic;
- only some schools in some areas will open;
- non-essential shops will open, but social distancing measures need to be in place.
These ideas are not singular to Germany. Decisionmakers have one eye on enforcing the quarantine now and the other on how the quarantine can be eased up at some point in the future, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer that things are not going back to normal anytime soon — possibly not even for the rest of the year. Germany’s core ideas are something that all countries need to consider and implement with great care to ensure that the second wave of coronavirus infections isn’t worse than the first.
Other ideas have been discussed as well, such as mandating that pubs/restaurants have 2 meters of space between patrons, or ensuring mass-testing for a substantial part of the population.
Antibody tests might also play a role as they can show who has had the disease and has developed immunity to it (and therefore not being at risk to contract or pass it forward). However, it’s still a while before any reliable such test hits the market.
For now, the key objective, priority zero, is ensuring that we limit the spread of the disease. But there’s still a society to live in afterward, and there’s still a society to manage, while keeping a coronavirus resurgence in check. It won’t be easy, that much is for sure.