An interdisciplinary group of renowned scientists is now calling for the current restrictions in society and the economy to be gradually eased, while ensuring medical care for the entire population. In their position paper, the researchers led by ifo President Clemens Fuest and Martin Lohse, president of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians (GDNÄ), outline ways to achieve this goal.

The strategy envisions the gradual easing of current restrictions in a differentiated way and under continuous consideration of the risks. Priority will be given to restrictions that incur high economic costs or lead to severe social and health burdens. Regions with low infection rates and available capacity in the health care system could, according to the proposal of the 14 experts from German universities and research institutes, lead the way in a gradual new start. Sectors with a low risk of infection, such as highly automated factories, and areas with less vulnerable persons, such as schools and universities, should be the first to have restrictions lifted.

“The current restrictions make sense and are beginning to have an impact,” says Martin Lohse, physician and president of the Society of German Natural Scientists and Physicians However, in addition to high economic and social costs, the restrictions can also have significant medical consequences, for example for patients with other serious diseases. “We have to expect that the pandemic will keep us busy for many months to come, and ultimately, only our immune systems will be able to protect us. Therefore, we need a flexible strategy that is differentiated by risk – a general shutdown is not a long-term solution,” Lohse says.

“Public health and a stable economy are by no means mutually exclusive,” says Clemens Fuest, economist and president of the Munich-based ifo Institute. “Just as positive economic development is not possible with an uncontrolled spread of the virus, the efficiency of our health system cannot be maintained without a functioning economy,” Fuest explains.
“When planning what steps to take in lifting the massive restrictions on private and public life, people must be at the center. Health, economic, and social risks must be taken into account. A lot is being expected of everyone at present. Now the strong must care for the weak,” emphasizes Christiane Woopen, Professor of Ethics and Theory of Medicine at the University of Cologne.

Scientists from the fields of internal medicine, infection research, pharmacology, epidemiology, economics, constitutional law, psychology, and ethics write that large-scale testing is important now to obtain more reliable findings on the spread of the pathogen. Safeguarding the production of protective clothing, protective masks, medicines, and future vaccines is also one of the most urgent measures. The scientists also recommend creating new capacity to cope with the social and psychological consequences of the current measures. 

The Franco-German Council of Economic Experts recommends a coordinated response to the COVID crisis at European level. France and Germany should make a stand for this, says Clemens Fuest, President of the ifo Institute.

A coordinated COVID response

It is in the interest of every EU member state that countries in the Union hit by the corona-virus are very quickly able to take the necessary measures to control the pandemic, help the economic recovery and prepare the transformation to a more sustainable and resilient European economy. In this context, the Franco-German Council of Economic Experts strongly endorses recent proposals made to respond at the European level in a coordinated manner to the COVID crisis. We believe that France and Germany should support them within the EU.

The Franco-German Council of Economic Experts

Agnès Bénassy Quéré (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Nicola Fuchs-Schündeln (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), Clemens Fuest (ifo Institut), Marcel Fratzscher (DIW Berlin), Christian Gollier (Toulouse School of Economics), Philippe Martin (Sciences Po Paris), Xavier Ragot (Sciences  Po Paris),  Christoph Schmidt  (RWI – Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung), Katheline Schubert (Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne).

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