When the last Lufthansa flight left Dublin for Frankfurt after a non stop service since 1972, it brought a tear to my eye.
An Aer Lingus plane parked in front of her, looked like she was kissing the German bird goodbye.
‘Auf Wiedersehen’ was the message from the airport. But when will we meet again?
Like many others, I’m looking towards my summer travel plans, and hoping that they won’t end up in the skip like everything else.
But because I’m planning on going to Germany, the country of my mother’s birth, I’m clinging to the hope that I’ll get some kind of holiday together. I’m not counting my chickens, but hope is last to die as they say.
Since Covid 19 first (officially) landed in Munich in January, I’ve been following its fortunes in the Vatherland meticulously. The Worldometer has become a macabre replacement for the EURO 2020 group tables. Each day, I obsessively check the new cases, the new deaths, the ICUs around the world, rejoicing when there’s a drop in fatalities, saddened when there’s not.
No doubt, hindsight will scrutinise its Covid 19 response, but until now, Germany has given us a masterclass in how to handle a novel virus.
In January, before the WHO had even declared that the coronavirus was transmissible from one person to another, German scientists had developed a test, putting them way ahead of the game.
An admirable ‘test, trace, treat’ model, saw countrywide drive through test centres from Berlin to Garmisch, almost 120,000 swab tests per day in over 130 labs with the goal of 200,000, including 2,000 Irish tests to help reduce our backlog. More hospital beds, more ventilators, more ICU beds and more hospital doctors, than any other comparable country in Europe.
Where people were lying on hospital floors in Spain, the Germans had enough ICU beds for over 200 patients from neighbouring France, Italy and Holland, who were flown in, in custom made army planes or state of the art helicopters.
When the U.K was unable to test it’s heroic NHS staff, the Germans deployed ‘corona taxis’ in cities, visiting people on contract tracing lists. My friend’s husband had Covid 19, and was isolating at home. She and her daughters had no symptoms, but were visited by men in Hazmat suits, tested, then given the results promptly.
They did all this calmly, collectedly and notably without displaying Schadenfreude at the arrogance of chronically illprepared England or the clown in the White House, who has presided over a catastrophic coronavirus response in the US, sadly at the cost of many American lives.
Despite economic angst and political extremism, a shrinking population and a bruised car industry, Germany, when put to the test, is strong. It’s in a Covid recession, but it will come out sooner than its neighbours. It doesn’t fall foul to boom or bust cycles, people can afford to live alone and not spread the virus, because there is no chronic housing shortage, its football association has money in the bank to support smaller clubs.
The Champions League Bundesliga clubs Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen created a €20m solidarity fund to help German clubs in the top two tiers stave off a potential financial crisis during the coronavirus pandemic.
Said teams have already been training. We could be watching Bundesliga ghost matches on British Tv as early as May 9th. The teams, who have 9 matches each to go, could start up behind closed doors, even though it would cost them 20,000 tests to make it happen. It could be pie in the sky as it would break the ‘no more than two people in public rule,’ but the Teutons need football.
The tentative return to ‘normal life’ in Germany will be slow and anything but normal, but this week, smaller nonessential businesses opened. Older students will return to school in early May.
Angela Merkel insisted it was only with the ‘utmost care’ that these steps will be taken. “Restrictions will be lifted slowly and could be reinstated if the virus spreads,” she said.
They have a plan in place. They are carrying out Europe’s first large-scale COVID-19 antibody testing to monitor infection rates, thereby helping to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to the the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s federal disease control and prevention agency, the first part of the study will draw on the country’s blood donation services, a second phase will focus on samples from cluster regions and a third stage will consist of a representative study of the country’s broader population.
Then theres the reliable Germans, who will head social distancing measures. Famously they get treated like adults, and in return, behave like adults.
Although all mass gatherings won’t happen before August 31st, or lets face it, for the rest of the year, I’m still hopeful for something opening in summer.
Maybe there’s an open guesthouse and a bit of a beer garden by July/August. I’m a woman of simple means. A kids camp and an open outdoor pool might be a step too far before 2021, but we all need to envisage Shangri La to get us through the dross of daily life.
But will they let others in? Therein lies the million dollar holiday question. I can get my German passport renewed, but would my daughter and I be put under quarantine? Currently all borders are closed.
The last few months have been long and scary. I cling to the prospect of a holiday on the horizon, which won’t include abject fear of infection.
For some reason, like many others, I thought this would be over when it gets warm.
Looking at the corona landscape, it’s looking doubtful, but I still have faith. If anyone can get out of this first, the Germans can.