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Pinays confident in German government´s response to coronavirus pandemic

Updated: Mar 16, 2020

by Emmalyn L. Kotte

Bochum--Filipina community leaders expressed confidence in the German federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in the midst of rising Covid-19 cases in the country.

Despite living in the region with the highest recorded Covid-19 cases, Maite Hontiveros-Dittle who lives near Dusseldorf, the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is unperturbed. More than 2000 cases of Coronavirus infections are reported in the region and the highest in the country. It is also home to almost 18 million people and is Germany’s most densely populated federal state.

Dittke says she remains calm despite the outbreak. Besides, she says, “I am confident that the government has everything under control, with politicians who know what to do. I am confident in our health systems.”

Like Dittke, life goes on for Filipina community leaders, Tess Wilms and Linda Stein. They go about doing their normal routines despite the outbreak. Both are active leaders in their respective church communities. Last Friday, Stein still attended her bible sharing group at a parish hall in Cologne.

Wilms continued to hear mass until yesterday and took precautions by abiding by instructions from the Archdiocese: no handshakes, no holding hands while singing Our Father. Instead of the usual embrace, they simply nod at each other for the “peace be with you” greeting. They also resort to greeting each other with butt bumps, or foot and elbow bumps.

Luckily, the church where Wilms hears mass in the city of Wuppertal is big enough to allow churchgoers a safe distance from one another. She never worried, she said. However, like all the others, she must now watch broadcasts of mass services on television, radio or the internet. The Archdiocese of Cologne stopped celebrating public masses today, March 15, following a decree by the NRW Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs. While used to hearing masses every day, Wilms understands why changes have to made and that it is a necessary measure for everybody’s safety.

Stein has only high praise for the government’s response to the global pandemic. She says “Germany has dealt with the situation thus far with proactive efficiency” and that she counts herself fortunate to be in this country in these challenging times.

She also has this advice to friends from the Philippines:

“let us face this crisis with great objectivity and level-headedness. No panic needed. Life must go on with greater responsibility and vigilance.”

Germany places 6th in the list of countries with the highest Covid-19 cases. As of March 15, there are 4838 infected persons with 12 deaths as reported by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), a leading government agency for research and prevention of infectious diseases. All of Germany’s 16 federal states have confirmed cases of coronavirus infections.

The severity of the problem in the country was acknowledged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as she admitted in a joint press conference with Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn and Lothar H. Wieler of the RKI last Wednesday, March 11 that much about the virus is not yet sufficiently known, that there is no vaccine and no treatment available.

She also said that much work is being done on therapeutic options and vaccine research and that her government has provided 140 million euros to fund a vaccine research project.

“The Committee on Budgets has already released up to a billion euros more to invest in the health care system, support for vaccine development and other issues,” she added.

Merkel also appealed for solidarity to the German people by urging everyone’s participation to delay the spread of the virus.

“All necessary measures must be taken to buy time and minimize the strain on the country’s health system. This will protect elderly people and those with previous illnesses, who are more vulnerable to the virus,” she further added.

Following Merkel’s appeal, NRW and many other federal states have ordered the cancellation of all public and private events. An ordinance was passed canceling all unnecessary events in the federal state and is in effect until further notice. In addition, the Ministry of Health requested all citizens to only hold events, such as celebrations and private appointments when they are necessary.

Trade fairs, congresses, concerts, sport, and many other public events have already been canceled in Dusseldorf, Cologne and many other cities. Museums, libraries, childcare facilities, kindergarten, schools, and universities will be closed starting next week.

Dittke who is a Filipino-German culinary expert whose cooking activities are held in trade shows and promotional campaigns in NRW and other parts of Germany knows that her losses from these cancellations are temporary. She says she remains confident that appropriate measures exist to mitigate her losses.

The government has assured the people that measures are in place to protect both employees and employers from the impacts of the virus outbreak: good social security systems, the Infection Protection Act that makes reimbursements in connection with such infectious diseases possible and paid mandatory sick leaves. The state of NRW also promised to expand its assistance for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals who are in need.

Despite living in Germany's hardest-hit Covid-19 area, Filipina community leaders remain confident in the German government's response to the coronavirus pandemic

Photos by: Emmalyn L. Kotte

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