Big cities accept help: soldiers support health authorities

The big cities get help in difficult Corona times. In many places soldiers help in the health authorities. Nevertheless, it is not always possible to trace all contacts

Ten days after the crisis meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the mayors of the eleven largest cities, several large cities have sought help from the Bundeswehr. The soldiers help, among other things, in health departments to understand the chains of infection. Almost every major city has now passed the critical value of 50 for the seven-day incidence.

On October 9, Merkel assured the mayors of the eleven largest cities that they would help with rising corona numbers: If the health authorities threaten to be overwhelmed, they should be supported by the federal and state levels. Since then, the number of new infections has skyrocketed.

240 Bundeswehr soldiers help in Berlin

Politicians are very concerned about the increase in corona cases in Berlin. The seven-day incidence was last at 86.9 (as of Sunday). The health authorities in the districts are chronically overloaded due to 200 missing positions. When it comes to contact follow-up, however, they say they can keep up with them. 240 Bundeswehr soldiers and some experts from the Robert Koch Institute also help here. More helpers are to be hired in the coming weeks.

Several other large cities are also receiving support from the Bundeswehr in tracking contacts with infected people. There are now 80 soldiers in Frankfurt. 60 started the Corona service last week, the rest came on Monday. In Dortmund and Hamburg, 40 soldiers each lend a hand to the authorities. In Stuttgart, 60 soldiers have been helping with telephone contact tracing in the health department since Thursday.

Smaller towns and districts also need help

Essen's Lord Mayor Thomas Kufen (CDU) announced a few days ago that he would be looking into help from members of the armed forces. In Cologne, the Bundeswehr has been helping out in the health department for weeks. As of Wednesday, the number of soldiers is to be increased from 30 to 53.

Not only in the big cities, but also in many rural districts and smaller cities, the numbers are increasing. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, 26 soldiers will be helping out in health departments from Tuesday. In the Lower Saxony city of Delmenhorst with a population of 82,000, a sharp increase was recorded on Monday. The seven-day incidence was 223.1. The follow-up of the contacts is very complex and takes a lot of time, said Mayor Axel Jahnz (SPD).

The head of the Cologne health department, Johannes Nießen, told the dpa a few days ago that the chains of infection are increasingly difficult to understand. "In around 40 percent of the cases, we do not know where the people who tested positive were infected," he said. The corona warning app is apparently little used. In addition, there is little willingness to provide honest information. The medical officer of the Berlin district of Neukölln, Nicolai Savaskan, told Tagesspiegel last week that the focus of infection could no longer be found in 70 percent of the cases in his district.

Corona restrictions are being tightened in many large cities

At Merkel's meeting with the mayors, it was agreed to introduce extensive restrictions at an incidence value of 50 at the latest. The eleven largest cities in Germany that were involved in the meeting with Merkel have now exceeded the critical value. In Hamburg that was the case on Monday. A regulation
with new measures there could come into effect as early as the weekend. The corona restrictions have also been tightened in many other large cities, for example through a mask requirement in heavily frequented areas outdoors, a curfew in restaurants and a ban on selling alcohol at night.

The restrictions also pose challenges for the regulatory authorities. Because they have to enforce the conditions. “Of course, the employees cannot be everywhere,” said a spokesman for the city of Düsseldorf.