On the website of Germany’s public television show Tagesschau, beneath a report on the country’s leading health expert expressing “concern” about a rise in coronavirus cases, are some helpful links for further reading. “No second wave yet”, ran the headline of the first story suggested, followed by a second headed, “The second wave is already here.”
So which one is it? Germany has been hailed for its exemplary handling of this pandemic. Yet when asked yesterday whether Germany finds itself in a second phase, the best that Robert Koch Institut head Lothar Wieler (pictured) could offer was that he didn’t know… but maybe? Germans are hardly the only ones navigating such mixed messages as we enter this new and even more uncertain phase of the pandemic. Should we go on holiday abroad? If we do, will we have to quarantine when we return? Should we only be travelling if “essential”? And what exactly does that mean anyway? I need a vacation: that certainly feels quite essential.
As the initial shock of the pandemic has faded, many of us are now at the rather strange stage of shrugging our shoulders, making tentative travel plans and heading back to work. We quietly go about our normal business – at least until some breaking news torpedoes our delicate routine and prompts a cry of “For f***s sake!”
There’s a fine line these days between “keep calm and carry on” and exasperation. It’s a line best navigated when the rules of the road are clear; when the government’s advice and the media’s reporting, however uncertain the situation, is at least consistent; when unannounced policy reversals are limited and well reasoned. This week’s headlines (the UK’s full quarantine reimposed on Spain top among them) suggest that we’re falling far short of that standard. Is it really too much to ask?