What went wrong in Germany?

What went wrong in Germany?

It wasn't long ago that the US and UK were the big losers of the developed world for their incompetent and politicized handling of the pandemic. Cases and deaths were surging even as their leaders diminished the threat of the disease.

Germany, meanwhile, was seen as a model of responsible pandemic management. Chancellor Angela Merkel's compassionate, pragmatic leadership, combined with respect for scientific expertise and general adherence to public health recommendations, had kept virus numbers low.

Six months later, the tables are turned — while the US and UK are poised to turn the corner with strong vaccine rollouts, the wheels are coming off in Germany.


A third wave is building fast. The 7-day average of new cases in Germany has nearly doubled since March 6th, to almost 16,000. The arrival of the more contagious B.1.1.7 "British" variant is thought to be a major reason why. Chancellor Angela Merkel summed things up in stark terms last week: "We have a new pandemic."

An abysmal vaccine rollout has made things worse. Only 13 out of every 100 Germans have been vaccinated so far, barely a third of the clip in the US and UK. In part, critics say, that's because Merkel opted for a convoluted EU-wide vaccine purchase strategy rather than using German economic muscle to negotiate the best deal for her country. That left Europe's most populous country with a supply shortage to begin with.

But a bad rollout plan, which relied on specific distribution sites rather than family doctors, made it hard for people to find shots. And confidence-killing whiplashes on the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Germany's main jab, have hamstrung the uptake as well.

Lockdowns, meanwhile, are becoming untenable. After months of winter restrictions, people and businesses are getting antsy as spring approaches. Last week, Merkel and the heads of Germany's 16 states agreed to extend current measures and to apply extra curbs during next week's Easter Holiday. But after a weekend of protests and backlash from churches and businesses, Merkel on Wednesday abruptly dropped the Easter plan, saying it was unveiled with too little notice. She asked forgiveness for the "mistake."

This is hurting Merkel and her party politically. While she is still one of the more popular elected leaders in the world, her support has plummeted almost 10 points since the start of the year to 51 percent, while her disapproval rating is as high as it's been since last March. Her one-time Wunderkind health minister Jens Spahn, who was so popular last year that he reportedly floated making a run for the Chancellorship, now has a disapproval rating of 60 percent.

Meanwhile, support for the CDU's governing alliance with its Bavarian sister party, the CSU, is down to 28 percent today after polling in the mid-30s for most of the past year. A recent drubbing in key local elections -- coupled with a growing scandal over two CDU/CSU lawmakers taking payments to arrange government contracts for face masks — has added to the sense that Merkel and her party are losing control of the positive narrative in Germany.

A rocky spring ahead of a decisive autumn. All of this heightens growing doubts about who will be in charge in Germany after general elections in September. Chancellor Merkel is stepping down after 16 years in power, but is banking on her continued popularity to nudge her preferred successor, CDU chief Armin Laschet, to the top of the polls.

If enough voters decide they've seen enough of the CDU/CSU government, which has dominated modern Germany's political history, Germany could be in for a potentially unwieldy coalition that includes the Greens, center-left Social Democrats, and market liberal Free Democrats, all of whom are gaining support at the moment.

Can Merkel still right the ship? Angela Merkel has risen to the challenge of crises before, but with the clock ticking until her exit, can she do so again? For better or for worse, we've seen that a lot can change in six months of pandemic time.

A sector that's rapidly expanding, domotics - domus (home) plus robotics - are smart houses that manage temperature and lighting to minimize wasted electricity. For example, smart thermostats sense your presence and set the temperature according to your needs, saving 20% a year on heating bills. Watch this episode of Eni's Energy Shot series to learn how domotics save money and increase a home's value.

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Listen: In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer, Pulitzer Prize-winning climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert assesses the current state of the climate crisis and answers a simple question: how screwed are we? And as the climate continues to warm at a record pace, she unpacks some of the more extreme climate solutions that some increasingly desperate nations are starting to consider. Such measures may sound like stuff of science fiction (see: injecting sulfur particles into the atmosphere or shooting millions of tiny orbital mirrors into outer space) as times become more desperate, their appeal is growing. Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

China is making its neighbors nervous these days. Chinese fighter jets are screaming into Taiwan's airspace. Hundreds of armed Chinese "fishing boats" are plying the disputed waters of the South China Sea. And Beijing is slashing imports from some trading partners because of disputes over political issues.

To push back against this increasingly aggressive behavior, regional powers Japan, India, and Australia, together with the US, are boosting cooperation via a 17-year-old grouping called the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or simply "The Quad." But how effectively can these four countries really work together to counter China? Eurasia Group's Peter Mumford discusses the Quad's future.

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Want to tackle climate change? If so you'll have to reach out to China, which is currently responsible for over a quarter of global carbon dioxide emissions. Beijing will certainly take your call, as climate is a huge priority for President Xi Jinping.

Xi has promised that China will go "net zero" — meaning its carbon emissions will be offset by equal amounts of either natural or tech-driven carbon capture — by 2060. Is a decade later than most of the top 10 polluting countries fast enough for the rest of the world? It is for the Chinese, who want to help but have their own ideas about how.

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When will it be safe for the world's children to be vaccinated against COVID-19? The World Health Organization's chief scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, says that vaccines are being tested in children down to the age of six or even lower, and promises that data on children will be shared as soon as it's available. She also notes that there are not enough studies on transmission in schools, and the WHO has advised governments to prioritize schools "over other things like shopping malls or cinema halls or pubs." Dr. Swaminathan spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 9. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Over the past half century, climate change has had an immense impact on the farmers who produce the food we eat. A new study by Cornell University shows that global warming has knocked 21 percent off of global agriculture productivity growth since 1965, equivalent to seven years of normal growth if humans had not polluted the planet. But not all countries have been affected in the same say. Farmers in warmer parts of the world have been hit hard as conditions grow more arid, but sub-polar regions in Canada or Siberia are now actually better for agriculture because they are not as cold as they used to be. Here we take a look at how climate has affected farming productivity growth around the world.

On Tuesday, a major US intelligence report said the top threat to America right now is China. A day later, John Kerry, the Biden administration's "climate czar," got on a plane to... China.

Such is the drama of ties between the world's two largest economies these days.

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