Right in the middle of the fourth wave – at Maybrit Illner, Habeck and Röttgen quarrel as to how this dramatic situation could even come about. In between it gets philosophical. The Green politician admits that politicians are also “lazy beings.” A journalist counters: “We didn’t choose her for that.”
By Sylvie-Sophie Schindler
25. November. Not just any day. But one with whom you could have put a big cross in the calendar. Because: Jens Spahn announced in mid-October that the “epidemic situation of national scope” would expire on November 25th. But now the “big day” has come and at Maybrit Illner Norbert Röttgen speaks of “the most dramatic situation that we have ever had in the whole pandemic”. And Robert Habeck makes it clear: “We will take office in Germany’s worst health crisis.” Alone: It might have been very different. Because, continues Habeck: “If we always did everything right, this fourth wave would not exist.”
Before you throw tomatoes and eggs at politicians, one might well ask whether we humans can even control viruses as we believe. So whether it is enough to “always do everything right”. Because while the Illner Talk is still thinking about how to cross against the Delta variant in 2022, the alarm message has long been there: A new variant has appeared in South Africa, B.1.1.529, with presumably at least ten mutations. The local health minister Joe Phaahla warns of a “great threat”.
- Robert Habeck, politician, Alliance 90 / The Greens
- Christiane Hoffmann, journalist
- Norbert Röttgen, CDU politician
- Henrike Roßbach, journalist
- Volker Wissing, FDP politician
And while everything is brewing, it has to be checked: is Olaf Scholz still taking part in coping with the pandemic, or is he just taking a break, or what is actually going on? At the presentation of the traffic light coalition agreement, he announced that he wanted to “monitor the situation every day”. Is there more in there? In any case, things are not really going well, which is why Illner titled the show “The traffic lights and Corona – in crisis mode at the start?”
Because at Habeck it sounds as if one still wants to wait for the special party conference on December 4th to see how the infection process develops, Henrike Roßbach intervenes: “It is not possible to see what happens for ten days.” The federal states should have adopted drastic measures much earlier. Röttgen also urges: “We don’t have any more time.” If it were up to him, stricter measures would have to take effect. The current chancellor and the new chancellor should appear in front of the citizens and give an appropriate address.
Confidential conversation with the Chancellor
Is the lockdown coming, Herr Habeck? You spoke to the Chancellor, what exactly? Illner wants an answer, but doesn’t get one. “I could talk about it,” says the Green politician simply. However, discussions with the Chancellor are confidential. And lockdowns, by the way, anything but “trivial” – he sees a “remaining chance” to proceed with “milder means”. Volker Wissing refers to a “shocking development” in the corona events and makes it clear that he does not understand what is being waited for. All countries would have enough instruments to intervene. Contact restrictions and bans on large events could be issued. His appeal: “Let’s make the most of what is possible.”
How did we get into this pandemic situation at all? “Not a good sign for a new government,” says Illner. Wait a moment. Habeck does not agree that the traffic light must now serve as a bogeyman. He insists: “We’re not all idiots.” The government that is still in office is ultimately responsible for the previous corona policy: “As the opposition, we have not been able to look behind the scenes.” Among other things, one would not have gotten any insight into the supply of vaccination doses. Röttgen, on the other hand, defends himself: “The new government is also making mistakes.”
But he admits that Jens Spahn did a good job, but also made mistakes. The hiccups between the two of them are still moderate, but towards the end of the program they get into each other’s hair; it gets loud and confused. Röttgen: “You pretend you don’t know anything. The numbers are known to everyone.” Habeck: “This crisis has not escalated under a traffic light government. Spahn is the incumbent Federal Minister of Health who constantly makes wrong decisions.” Röttgen: “You are now responsible. You cannot pretend that you have been in the valley of the unsuspecting for two years.” Habeck: “I didn’t say that.” And he adds, unmistakably annoyed: “Now you’re doing the opposition clown here.”
Robert Habeck: “We are lazy beings”
Illner sums up that both the current government and the government coming into office have galloped. Habeck views this philosophically: “What is it? It is human deficiency. We are indolent beings.” In order to break the fourth wave, the measures were not used sufficiently or too late. That was also the case in other respects – what is meant is the hacking after politics behind the pandemic – and that explains “why we always look so stupid.” He appeals for understanding for the hard fate of politicians: They would find it particularly difficult to be the bearer of bad news. Illner wants to say something, raises a hand in the air, Habeck, very eager to explain, pushes it away with his hand. It is not easy, he muses, to overcome one’s weaker self.
Habeck becomes a kitchen philosopher at Maybrit Illner
A bit of kitchen psychology all at once. Christiane Hoffmann has had enough of it. She rebukes Habeck: “As a politician, you have to utter unpleasant truths and take the measures that are necessary.” That is the definition of political leadership. In addition: Sufficient experts had “talked their mouths off”, so they had been warned. She just doesn’t understand: “What prevented Mr. Scholz from standing up and saying, Attention, we’re running into a difficult situation?” The journalist adds: “We have chosen you that you take a look at the situation – and not that you are lazy and hesitant.”
How do you want to get ahead instead of behind the next wave? According to Habeck, you have to make the pandemic “everyday business”, i.e. set up a crisis team, based on the model from 2015, on the occasion of the wave of refugees, and look and discuss the situation every day, and not every 14 days so that you “don’t forget that you have a pandemic”. So the pandemic will be forgotten in between? “The fact that this crisis team does not yet exist is a scandal,” says Wissing. “We have to try to fight the virus on a permanent basis,” says Habeck. “We need to vaccinate more.” And if that doesn’t go well, “we have to talk about compulsory vaccination.” But not now, Wissing fends off. One should not pretend that the problem can be solved by compulsory vaccination for winter 2021, because it could take up to six weeks for the vaccination to take effect. The earlier statement of the FDP – “There will be no compulsory vaccination with us” – relativizes Wissing to the effect that he considers a facility-related compulsory vaccination to be appropriate. And also for actionable. In contrast, a general obligation to be imposed is constitutionally difficult.