By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
The accelerated spread of the Corona- virus around the globe has brought to the surface many embedded problems of our modern societies: the biggest one being the unpreparedness of our societies to supply the necessary medical equipment in order to deal with the crisis. At the same time there is a lot of solidarity. For example there have been many interviews with hospital doctors in German TV who in a calm, self- confident way explained that hospitals were preparing for receiving a much larger wave of gravely infected Corona infected patients in intensive care. At the same time they welcomed that some German hospitals have offered help to France and Italy by receiving several seriously ill Corona- virus patients in German hospitals and thus giving a sign of solidarity. Other doctors stated that “triage” is not an answer to the crisis, which makes a difference in the treatment of old and young patients and underlined that everybody has the right for the same treatment.
The most shocking however in the midst of the Corona crisis-– as several doctors have testified – is the fact that in the economically advanced European countries, as well as in the USA, there is a “chronic” shortage of simple respiratory masks, respiratory machines and other necessary material. At the same time experts and doctors have pointed out that in Germany during the last years “expenditures” for the health sector have been brutally cut and replaced by “profit”- oriented health and “hospital management”; this includes a systematic cut down of nursing personnel, the shutdown of hospitals or fusing of hospitals led by “cost efficiency” calculations. This also goes for medical equipment that is acquired “just in time.” These are criteria which in the past had been advocated (among others) by the German “Bertelsmann Foundation” – as a leading doctor recently criticized in an ARD TV talk show.
In China a hospital was constructed for 2000 beds within 14 days! Why can this be not done in Germany and other European countries? What parameters do then count in this crisis – if not that such an extraordinary crisis demands extraordinary response efforts in the economy, medicine and in society that should act on the basis of “solidarity”?
In the economic sector we saw in these days that the EU Finance Ministers were unable to come to an agreement on the use of “Corona bonds” that are demanded by Belgium, France, Italy, Spain et cetera,- where the EU with the help of the so called “Corona-Bonds” would help to alleviate the debt burden of some countries in this extraordinary situation. Shockingly Netherlands and Germany have shown a dramatic lack of solidarity by rejecting such bonds as “emergency measures” which as consequence could put the EU cohesion at risk.
Corona- virus and the science community
In the scientific community there is a fervent debate concerning the origin of the new deadly Virus Sars –CoV-2 . For example it is highly instructive to study a report presented by the “German Federal Parliament” already in the year 2012 (!), under the title “How to protect the population.” It was a detailed analysis based on modelling the consequence of a major pandemic such as SARS and the effects this would have on society. Under the title: “Risk analysis. Pandemics through Virus Modi- SARS,“ the study describes a scenario that had been compiled among others by the Robert Koch Institute, the Paul Ehrlich Institute and the Joint support Command of the German Federal Armed forces. The Case study describes hypothetically the case of several infection waves, transmitted from Asia and starting first in the north and south of Germany, leaving almost 6 million (!) Germans infected with the Modi -SARS virus. The study concludes that the German health system will be facing enormous challenges if such scenario were to come true.
Zoonoses and the question of Species jump
On 28th of March an article got published by the Swiss daily “Neue Züricher Zeitung” (NZZ) which investigates how pandemics could be prevented in the future. The article focuses on the “jump of different animal viruses” and uses as example an animal market in the Chinese town Guilin. According to NZZ in the year 2018 during a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Peter Daszak and other scientists discussed about the “Disease X.” Disease X was described as an “unknown virus” that could cause a pandemic. ” Today it is clear: Covid 19 is the Disease X,” Daszak , president of the Eco Health Alliance, a private research organization in New York, stated. The article notes that in the midst of the present stormy debate little attention has been given to the possible “causes” of this pandemic.
According to NZZ the answer is “sobering” since it shows that the “agents” of this catastrophe are known since a long time and are being ignored since years, as were the warning from experts who predicted the outbreak of the disease and pandemics potential since a long time. Hence many experts were not surprised about the outbreak of Corona virus, “it was only a question of time” according to wildlife veterinarian Christian Walzer, chairman of the “Health Department of the Institute Wildlife Conservation Society,” which is located in New York. “If we don’t change things, there will be further virus transmissions. I would say that they are the cause for all newly emerging diseases.” The NZZ reports further that 75% of new emerging infection diseases, that concern human beings are “zoonoses”, i.e. they originate from animals, according to the “US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”
The nagging questions which arises in this context is: Why does Europe not put together all its energies to research about the disease and find an appropriate vaccine while ate the same time make a big change and change from a laissez- faire economy, from a thinking “just in time” to a full preparedness to combat the disease.
Moral implications for society- Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi
On March 27 a very moving ceremony took place at the St Peters’ square, where Pope Francis gave the extraordinary “Urbi et Orbi “blessing to the World (it’s usually given twice a year- on Christmas and Eastern). It was eerie to watch the Pontiff walk alone in the midst of pouring rain at 6 o’ clock in the afternoon around the St Petersburg Square, climbing up the stairs together with his Assistant Msgr. Marini. He made a first stop for prayer in front of the oldest Icon of Rome “St Mary – Salus Populi Romani” (from Santa Maria Maggiore) and then in front of the “Plague Cross” dating back to the 14th century (from San Marcello al Corso), to then finally stop in front of the monstrance that he was to use for the “Urbi e Orbi” blessing.
The Pope gave a short homily in reference to the St.Mark gospel (Mk 4:35) which describes a discussion between Jesus and his disciples who when crossing together with him in a boat the water to reach the other side, were facing a major storm. The Pope uses the introductory sentence of the Gospel “When evening had come” – as a reference, emphasizing that “for weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void that stops everything as it passes by…We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.”
Yet he also emphasized “that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.”
The strong storm, according to Pope Francis “exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around him which we have constructed our daily schedules , our projects, our habits and priorities (….) The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls…In this storm , the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.”