hrsirritation, runny nose, sore throat – these symptoms are likely to make many people nervous right now. Because in addition to a harmless cold, they can also indicate a coronary infection.
The federal and state governments therefore recommend all people with cold symptoms to go into voluntary quarantine. In consultation with a doctor, the victims should be sick-listed by telephone and cured.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) and the prime ministers of the federal states will meet again to discuss stricter measures. Then the so-called cold quarantine should also return to the test.
So far, there is only one recommendation
If all people with cold symptoms have to isolate themselves, it can cost the economy and taxpayers a lot. “Depending on the duration of the cold wave, a cold quarantine can lead to losses measured in average wages, which can be in the low double-digit billion range,” says Jörg Krämer, chief economist at Commerzbank. “It would, of course, be an additional burden on public budgets and businesses.”
However, the costs are not so high that you have to change a financial forecast. In addition, the big question is whether the already overburdened health authorities would apply such a quarantine in practice.
There is currently no obligation to quarantine cold symptoms. At the last summit last week, the federal and state governments could only agree on one recommendation. The Federal Chancellery had formulated stricter measures.
For example, people should “go straight to quarantine with all cold symptoms and especially respiratory symptoms, such as coughing or runny nose,” according to a preliminary draft resolution of the Federal Chancellery.
If the health department orders a quarantine for Covid-infected people or suspects, their employer must continue to pay the salary during the isolation period. The companies can then receive compensation for the responsible state authorities.
But: If an employee can work from home despite the quarantine, he must continue to do so. This obligation does not apply until you have sick leave. And those who voluntarily quarantine are not entitled to continued payment.
According to estimates by the independent think tank Risklayer, more than 776,000 people are already in quarantine in Germany. The analyzes are based on data from the individual state health ministries, districts and the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). In addition, if all people with only cold symptoms isolate themselves, the number is likely to grow significantly.
RKI provides information on this. The authority not only registers coronary heart disease but also provides weekly estimates of the number of people in Germany who are currently struggling with cold symptoms. The figures are based on forecasts from the so-called flu network, where thousands of patients report whether they have had symptoms this week.
The latest information is available for calendar week 43, ie from 17 to 22 October. The figures are probably lower than last year’s values, also due to the corona protection measures. According to this, about 1.2 million German doctors were this week due to an acute respiratory disease. Respiratory diseases with and without fever are registered.
Since not all patients go to the doctor due to a cold, the estimated value of how many people have cold symptoms in total is significantly higher. During the 43rd calendar week, RKI estimates that it is 3.1 percent of the total population. This corresponds to about 2.5 million people in Germany. The week before, the value was even 3.5 percent or the equivalent of 2.9 million people.
FDP requires more test capacity
Volker Wissing, FDP Secretary General, warns of escalating costs. “When it comes to ensuring intensive medical care for people, cost problems must not be at the forefront,” Wissing told WELT. However, health care is ultimately financed with financial success.
“Even in times of the corona pandemic, we must therefore not weaken our economic foundations arbitrarily, otherwise we will lack the purpose of all measures,” says Wissing. In any case, the soaring central government debt cannot remain unlimited.
From the point of view of the FDP Secretary-General, however, the proposal for a cold quarantine reveals a completely different problem: missing and slow corona tests. “We need immediate transparency and information about who can be tested when, where, under what conditions,” Wissing demands. In addition, the result must be available within 24 hours. “For this, we need more test capacity,” says Wissing.
When Christiane Woopen, a medical ethicist at the University of Cologne, warned the WELT when asked about reasonable restrictions, federal and state governments should keep an eye on all factors. A quarantine even with cold symptoms would burden the affected people very differently.
“The individual cost factors of quarantine cannot be clearly balanced against each other,” says Woopen. For people with good mental health, financial losses would be a special priority, while unstable people would suffer more from isolation.
In any case, the corona pandemic will increase social inequality, says Woopen. “Should the common cold become mandatory, social work must focus as soon as possible on the particularly stressed cases.”
In addition, the doctor sees another danger: that people take advantage of the requirement and call in the sick without symptoms. “Then,” says Woopen, “there are additional costs.”