The Deadly Consequences of Neoliberalism: The Covid-19 Pandemic in Germany

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2092 ... May 16, 2020

The Deadly Consequences of Neoliberalism: The Covid-19 Pandemic in Germany

Unlike the endless praises in the liberal and social democratic press in North America, the Covid-19 pandemic is relentlessly uncovering the weaknesses of the German healthcare system -- the deadly consequence of two decades of neoliberal policies. Indeed, just last week the London-based Financial Times reported on a rebound of cases in Germany. Thomas Sablowski works for the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, a research and political education centre aligned with the German socialist party Die Linke. Thomas is a senior research fellow in the area of political economy of globalization, a member of Die Linke, and on the scientific advisory board of Attac Germany. Thomas was interviewed by Saliha Boussedra of the French journal Cause Commune in late April.

Cause Commune (CC): There have been far fewer deaths in Germany than in France. How do you explain this?

Thomas Sablowski (TS): We still know relatively little about this new corona virus and the dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic. Comparisons between countries are difficult because the testing practices... in the countries are very different. The numbers of unreported cases of Covid-19 might vary from country to country. The testing practices are also different with regard to the analysis of the causes of death. However, one hypothetical explanation for the apparently lower number of deaths from Covid-19 in Germany could be that in the initial phase of the pandemic in Germany, younger people could have been more seriously affected than in France. Many cases occurred during skiing holidays of Germans in Austria. This would mean that older people could have been affected more at a later stage of the pandemic after which the death rate rose in Germany, as well.

Another explanation is that the death rate depends very much on the situation in the hospitals and in residential homes for the elderly: Is there enough capacity for intensive care in the hospitals? Are there enough ventilators? Are there enough protective masks and protective clothing for the doctors and nurses working in the hospitals and for caregivers of the elderly? When high-risk groups such as the elderly and people with chronic diseases are consequently not protected, the death rate can rise quickly. The same holds if the hospitals are overloaded or not equipped well: The death rate rises quickly, and even the employees in the hospitals are getting infected to a high degree. Fortunately, it seems that Germany has avoided, more or less, an overload of the hospitals, so far. German newspapers reported that an overload of hospitals occurred in the region Grand-Est in France and that there was no more care for elderly above 80 years because of a lack of ventilators.

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