A group of 14 scientists launched the “NoCovid” initiative. Professor Matthias Schneider, Head of the Department of Medical and Biological Physics at Technical University (TU) Dortmund, explains in an interview what strategies the group would like to use to eliminate the virus in Germany.
Professor Schneider, people keep saying we have to learn with him SARS-CoV coronavirus2 to live. How do you see your NoCovid group?
In our opinion, we do not need to learn to live with the virus. Because there are alternatives. We want to eliminate the virus. The virus will not completely disappear from the world. But we want to eliminate the virus, at least in large part. Last summer, 150 regions in Germany were virus-free. So it works in principle.
What exactly is your NoCovid strategy?
It is an opening strategy. We want to pin incidents to a very low level. We don’t want a blind closure for everyone, as the government has decided. Closing should only be requested once, then you need a strategy to keep the numbers low. Quarantine over and over, unexpected changes, school closures – that’s the problem. So the shutdown needs to be done properly so you only have to do it once.
How to do shutdown correctly?
Closure and relief should not be simply tied to an arbitrary date. Instead, mitigation should be based on goal achievement. For example, new infections with an unknown source of infection are said to be less than 10 per 100,000 inhabitants per week. If the end of the lockdown is associated with this condition, it also increases people’s motivation to adhere to established rules. With the NoCovid Plan, we unlock planning security and perspective, which ultimately benefits everyone.
What separates your approach from political actions, too?
Our approach seems very local. Actions are no longer at the state or state level, but at the municipal level. Areas with no occurrence for a few weeks are declared green areas and allowed to reopen. In the second step, these green areas must be protected from new entry of the virus.
One appeals to residents not to move from the red zone to the green zones unless it is necessary for business or private purposes, for example if the partner lives there. And then only with tests and appropriate hygiene measures. In green areas, people can return to near-normal. Strict restrictions are still in place as infections persist in order to protect green areas.
Has the strategy actually worked in other countries?
It has already worked in New Zealand and Australia and is also doing very well in parts of India. Not only did the governments issue the ban, but they also appealed to the population how to get through the pandemic together. I developed a step-by-step plan for the holes – combined with falls – and used the green zone model. And they have nearly eliminated the coronavirus, or at least reached a state that can be controlled relatively easily.
Will this also work in Germany? After all, isn’t it an island like New Zealand?
Of course there are differences. We are here in central Europe and we have cross-border traffic. We have to test as much as possible at the borders with countries with dangerous variants of viruses. But the Indian version of the Delta was brought to Great Britain by plane.
It doesn’t really matter if Germany is an island or not. I would say that about 80 percent of the experiences can be transferred from countries like Australia and New Zealand to Germany. Australia, for example, is also a democracy with federal structures.
In Australia, we took a closer look at Melbourne, a city of 4.3 million people, and how it reduced the number of new infections to almost zero. Melbourne faced similar problems to our big cities like Berlin. Melbourne, for example, is also a city with many immigrants. Unfortunately, accidents are often higher among immigrants.
If only the strategy succeeded in other countries. Why haven’t you heard of strategy in politics in this country?
I just do not know. We really tried everything and talked actively with politicians. We have often been proven right with our strategy. But it has not been implemented. Perhaps you want to please everyone. When the numbers drop after the lockdown, every politician wants to be the first to allow easing. The result can be seen in England, where numbers rose after rapid easing.
Why could you be successful with the NoCovid strategy now that infection numbers are low?
When the numbers are small, it is easy to find and isolate infected people. If you take a closer look, you can see that about a hundred of the less than 400 municipalities in North Rhine-Westphalia are currently green areas. We must now protect these green areas with the methods available to us.
What specific measures are you suggesting?
You can’t open as wildly as in Summer/Autumn 2020 without a test. Otherwise there will be another closing at the end. We cannot rely on vaccines alone. We have to put as many legs as possible to the virus. There is no way to remove the mask requirement. In addition, you should be very careful with international flights from areas where there is a delta shape.
In addition, testing should be conducted seriously and people and areas where infection occurs should be isolated. People who go into quarantine should not be treated as outcasts who have done something wrong. But as people doing community service with quarantine. And you have to treat them well.
What can you achieve with the strategy if you apply it now?
With the concept of vaccination plus measures, we can stabilize accidents in such a low range that we still live at peace in the fall. If we make it as difficult as possible for the virus, it will also greatly increase the chance of the vaccination winning the race against the virus. Infection will still occur sporadically. But it was easy to isolate them. You don’t have anything on your slip, but you will have it in the community. Because people living in isolation pose virtually no danger.
You can also hear our review of “No Covid” in the podcast
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