Relaxations through tests: failure of model projects?

If you look at pictures from Tubingen these days, you might think they come from a time before the pandemic: people sitting in cafes, bustling around downtown. Before the Easter weekend, many enjoyed the first Aperol Spritz in the spring sunshine in Baden-Wurttemberg.

Simply shopping in a store again without an appointment, feasting in the outdoor area of a restaurant – that's what many Germans are longing for at the moment. While third pandemic wave As the third pandemic wave gains momentum, the fulfillment of this wish seems further away than ever. Except in the so-called model regions and cities in some German states.

Model projects in Tubingen and Rostock started at low incidences

In Tubingen, such a model project has been running since mid-March. At nine test stations people can take tests free of charge, and the results are certified. This can be used in stores, to the hairdresser or even in theaters and museums.

Also the city Rostock has been experimenting with opening steps for several weeks: on a test basis, the first public events have been allowed, for example at the Volkstheater Rostock. Access requirement for the slightly more than 100 spectators from regions with an incidence below 50 was a negative rapid test, in addition, distances had to be kept and masks had to be worn. Because of a stable incidence below 50 so far, some media even called the city a "Corona miracle". The city's social services senator is now even toying with the idea of restoring normal schooling for grades 7 through 11.

Model tests: Corona measures loosen – despite rising case numbers

But it's not just individual cities that are pushing for relaxations: In the Saarland Since Tuesday, a whole series of facilities and houses have been allowed to reopen. In addition to outdoor restaurants, these include cinemas, theaters, concert halls, fitness studios and indoor tennis courts. The prerequisite for guests and users is usually a negative rapid test, which must not be older than 24 hours. In addition, up to ten people can meet outdoors, even at a beer table, if they have been tested negative. Even contact sports like soccer are allowed again – with test slips. Also in Lower Saxony and Hesse, individual regions are to try out relaxations.

Criticism of these model projects is growing. Especially since the projects are often not scientifically reviewed and partially haphazard openings be carried out. In Weimar, for example, stores opened for four days last week to those tested negative. There was no review by experts.

Sharp criticism of Tubingen model: "Testing instead of lockdown" is wishful thinking

But that's exactly what corona experts like the virologist are insisting is Christian Drosten. Model projects like the one in Tubingen should have good scientific monitoring, the Charite researcher explained in his podcast. None of the projects has yet proven that it works, Drosten stressed. "One should lay down a whole number of such success criteria before doing this model experiment, in order to then say at some point in the post-evaluation: This was successful."Demolition criteria and a comparative city without a model project are also important.

SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach voiced even more severe criticism and called for a halt to the pilot projects. "They give the false signal", Lauterbach wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. The Tubingen project shows that unsystematic testing with opening strategies will not stop the heavy third Corona wave. "Testing instead of lockdown" is wishful thinking.

Corona: seven-day incidences rise significantly in model cities

Testing opening concepts at individual locations in order to learn from them for the further course of the pandemic sounds sensible at first. It becomes problematic when the model cities and regions stick to the relaxations, although the Infection situation is increasingly getting out of control.

This is how the model project in Tubingen, which is actually scheduled to run until 18. April should run, on the tipping point. In the city of Tubingen, the seven-day incidence has risen significantly since the trial began. It cracked on Thursday, 1. April, with 110.4 the 100 mark, even after the Easter days, which caused an overall reporting delay, the incidence of the district is still above 100.

Mayor Boris Palmer (Greens) blames this increase on the Day tourists, wants to hold however to the openings. That is why the model has now been restricted to residents of the district of Tubingen. However, the situation remains under control, the Green politician said.

Model projects: Experimentation without scientific monitoring?

The number of new infections is also on the rise in Rostock: Still on 21. March had in Rostock the seven-day incidence at 22.0 new infections per 100.000 residents, on Sunday (5. April), it was 76.5. Case numbers are also rising in the model state of Saarland. On Monday, the Robert Koch Institute gave a seven-day incidence of 91.3. This was an increase compared to Sunday, when the incidence was still 88.2. An increase, into which is now relaxed.

Prime Minister Hans defended the model in the "Bild" newspaper. "The few and cautious openings in Saarland are all linked to negative tests," he said. "We don't do any Relaxation exercises."

The extent to which the project in Saarland will remain just an exercise depends on how much knowledge is gained. The plans so far rather lead to the amption that the Freitesten only serves the purpose of being able to visit a cinema or restaurant. Not, however scientifically sound strategy to create. So far, there have been no interesting findings from the Tubingen experiment either – despite monitoring by the university hospital there.

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