Fighting pandemics: what can a crisis team achieve?

To analyse

Status: 11/29/2021 8:15 p.m.

A crisis team in the Chancellery is responsible for fighting the pandemic. At the top should be a general of the Bundeswehr. But is the idea really new – and more than just symbolic politics?

By Björn Dake, ARD capital studio

With Olaf Scholz it sounded like something new: The traffic light will set up a Corona crisis team in the Chancellery. Even before the coalition agreement was presented last week, the future SPD Chancellor outlined the task of the body. The crisis team will continuously assess and monitor the situation and review the implementation of the resolutions.

Björn Dake
ARD capital studio

However, Scholz is not yet in the Chancellery. In order to set up a crisis team there, he has to talk to the executive Chancellor Angela Merkel from the CDU. Your spokesman, Steffen Seibert, says Scholz and Merkel are in close contact through the crisis team.

Merkel and Scholz in close contact

According to Seibert, the aim is for the crisis team to start its work “as soon as possible”. The Chancellor finally promised to work closely with the upcoming government in the last days of her term of office.

It is not yet known who will work together in the Corona crisis team in the future. FDP leader Christian Lindner made it public on Sunday that a military should lead the round. In conversation is Major General Carsten Breuer. The 56-year-old is currently in charge of the Bundeswehr operations in Germany. The executive government does not want to confirm the change so far.

The body is supposed to solve practical questions

As can be heard from the traffic light parties, the new crisis team is primarily intended to answer practical questions. For example: How do enough vaccines get to people? Who can accept corona patients from overloaded clinics?

According to a newspaper report, around 50 people could be part of the crisis team. The arrangements were probably made digitally. A model for the Corona crisis team could be a committee that was set up in the Federal Ministry of the Interior in late summer 2015 during the refugee crisis.

Crisis team: more than a symbol?

Crisis team – that sounds like quick decisions. A general at the top conveys energy and assertiveness. So it’s a symbol – but is it more? So far, fighting the pandemic has mainly been a matter for the federal states and the local authorities. Agreements are made at the level of the ministries of health, the state chancellery or the heads of government from the federal and state levels.

Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Söder from the CSU is therefore skeptical of a crisis team in the Chancellery. in the Morning magazine from ARD and ZDF he asked: “What’s the new thing? A general who has a very, very good repute cannot issue orders to the municipalities.”

General is already leading the fight against pandemics

What Söder did not mention: A general is already leading the federal government’s pandemic fight – General Staff Doctor Hans-Ulrich Holtherm. Since March 2020 he has headed the joint crisis team made up of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior. It always meets on Tuesdays, tomorrow for the 99th time since the beginning of the pandemic.

As the Ministry of Health explains, the crisis team is a “strategic body”. Political decisions are being prepared there, for example the entry regulations. Decisions are not made in this round. Jens Spahn pointed this out a few days ago. According to him, there is no shortage of crisis teams. “It takes political responsibility for decisions.”

The CDU’s acting minister of health no longer seems to want to take on this political responsibility. The traffic light parties are not officially in government yet. And so a new Corona crisis team in the Chancellery can prepare decisions, but only a new government can make them. And she will probably only take office next week.

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