German mayor shows Merkel how to tackle Covid crisis after ‘failure’ to protect citizens

Angela Merkel outlines plans for European Health Union

Boris Palmer, mayor of Tübingen, just south of Stuttgart, has adopted an approach to the epidemic which is a far cry from the tactics employed by the German Chancellor. His policies have achieved the very feat governments have been trying for months to pull off – to protect the elderly and most vulnerable from the virus without the need for a lockdown.

Mr Palmer introduced a set of rules in the town of about 89,000 aimed at protecting high risk groups from the disease without completely shutting them off from society.

Free taxi and minibus services were offered to senior citizens to ferry them back and forth to shops, which ran an exclusive hour and a half slot for high-risk people only.

The town’s council also introduced free FFP respirator masks to over 65s weeks before Mrs Merkel adopted the policy.

And the university town’s nine retirement homes remained Covid-free for months due to strict testing rules.

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Staff, residents and visitors were tested for the disease twice a week.

Up until two weeks ago, not a single case of coronavirus was recorded in the nine care homes in the town.

Mr Palmer told The Telegraph: “Death statistics prompted our approach.

“It’s impossible to eradicate the virus, so we have to prevent it getting to those for whom it is dangerous.”

Despite the town’s success in protecting its most vulnerable from being infected without shutting down the local economy, it has since gone into lockdown.

Last week Germany started its nationwide Christmas lockdown after the Chancellor said the previous “lockdown light” in place had not done enough to stem the spread of Covid.

Mr Palmer hit out at Mrs Merkel and regional leaders for their approach to the crisis.

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He said: “General lockdowns can only be the last resort.

“They failed to protect those most at risk.”

After the Christmas plans of millions of Germans were left in tatters by the latest lockdown, Mrs Merkel told them to see their loved ones by video call over the festive season.

Germany is struggling with a rise in coronavirus infections and deaths.

The country recorded more than 31,000 new infections and 702 deaths on Saturday, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said.

That was double the number of infections reported on December 15, one day before Germany went into a hard lockdown that is expected to last until at least January 10.

Praise for the Chancellor for having tamed the first wave has turned to criticism of her perceived failure to tackle the second.

In her weekly video podcast, she said: “Women and men stationed far away from home to ensure our security know what it means to have limited contact with loved ones.

“They know what it means to only be able to Skype over a long period of time instead of being together.”

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