June 15, 2021

German businessmen demand the same rules for all economic sectors


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Since the beginning of the pandemic,
German employers have followed the guidelines with discipline and resignation
that has been marking the Merkel government. This collaborative spirit has contributed greatly the subsidy of 75% of the losses with which the German State has been lubricating the closures since the first month of any business that was not of vital importance. But with the vaccination campaign finally working and levels of infections that allow us to raise our heads a little, German businessmen demonstrate for the first time to provide their own opinion on how to tackle the challenge posed by the coronavirus from now on. Given that we must continue to count on their presence at least in the medium term and that state aid is nearing its end, they want to dispense with the ubiquitous tests in daily business life and emancipate themselves from the level of incidence to know if they can open the companies or not. They demand a reopening that is maintained over time, without being subject to the vagaries of the virus, based on the rules of hygiene, distance and capacity.

The member companies of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) have developed a strategy document in which they require the same rules for all sectors and the end of openings linked to the level of incidents. Before publicly presenting their plan, they have ensured that it has the approval of the political parties and, as of today, only the Greens remain against it. The complaints of the economy are well known after seven tough months of lockdown in which leisure, tourism, culture, and non-essential commerce have been completely closed. “The policy must finally create a ‘reliable perspective’ and adequate ‘framework conditions’ that allow businessmen to know if they will be able to carry out their activity or not the day after tomorrow, asks its president, Ralf Pieterwas.

“Many sectors are very dissatisfied with crisis management; now specific goals and specifications must be established for what will happen in the coming weeks in order to open the economy in a sustainable way and cushion the weight of the crisis, “he explained during the presentation of the document. One of the main complaints is that “The fact of having to take a test for everything seems to dissuade a particularly high number of clients”, He says. It should be remembered that in Germany the gastronomy can only open terraces with reduced capacity, prior appointment and on the condition that customers present a maximum 24-hour test at the time of accessing the terrace. These requirements also remain in force for non-essential commerce, which is not registering a return to activity or even remotely comparable to the times prior to closing.

The greatest innovation in the IHK’s proposed strategy, however, is equal treatment in the economy. “Because so far different rules have been applied, for example for the food trade and clothing stores,” says Pieterwas. “The Robert Koch Institute’s analyzes do not expressly include retail as one of the problem areas for infections,” the authors of the document allege. “Therefore, the admission and opening criteria must be applied equally to all stores”, they deduce, admitting the limitation of the number of customers, the mask requirement and the distance rules, but not the test requirement as currently applied . In order to reach as many supporters as possible, the IHK has launched the hashtag # gemeinsamsicheröffnen (“# safe joint opening”) on social media.

They also insist that tourism must be boosted with a reduction in restrictions. Sporting events, concerts and cultural events must take place again in front of an audience, in their opinion, and the population must be allowed to go to city centers again. They do not require a specific date for the openings, but they do require that once the de-escalation is decreed, there are no new rules every so often. The government has taken note of the proposal and is talking about a withdrawal of restrictions this summer. What happens around the holidays and especially after the general elections on September 26 is however difficult to predict.

Thomas Straubhaar, an economist and international economic relations expert, considers the IHK plans to be “particularly appropriate for outdoor events.” “What could have helped yesterday may even backfire today. For example, when outdoor activities are restricted, which is hardly understandable, people end up finding themselves in frustration and misunderstanding, leading to more dangerous contagion situations ”.

The president of the CDU Economic and SME Union, Carsten Linnemann, has spoken out in favor of abolishing mandatory testing in retail purchases, down from a seven-day incidence of less than 100. «In North Rhine -Westfalia, the rule already applies as soon as the incidence is less than 100. Other federal states should do the same. The experiences in NRW are positive ”, he suggests, along the lines that all political parties seem willing to accept, except Los Verdes. From the extreme right of AfD to the extreme left of Die Linke, the parties are willing to take up the IHK strategy because “it is a question of survival for small businesses.”

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