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Ideas

For A Holiday Moratorium On Debating COVID

The topic of COVID is dividing siblings, old friends and parents at daycare centers. So maybe we need an experiment and stop sharing opinions, from the dinner table to your local news outlet.

woman wearing a surgical mask holding her finger in front of her mouth in a shush sign

Could we forget about covid, for holidays' sake?

Susanne Gaschke

-Essay-

BERLIN — In his first government declaration, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said something about COVID that will be remembered for its understated accuracy: "Nobody is doing so well in these times..." That is a description that also captures the mood of a divided nation that Scholz began leading this month.

Anyone who still claims that there is no polarization over the pandemic either refuses to see it — or has no friends or family members with whom to quarrel.


The COVID policies made by those in power and the COVID reporting by most media are dividing siblings, old friends, and parents at the daycare center around the corner.

A breakdown in conversation

One side accuses the other of unreasonableness, lack of information, incorrect risk assessment and, above all, recklessness. It often sounds as if those who consider some government measures disproportionate want to deliberately kill old people (the average age of COVID deaths is around 80 years old).

The other side could go nearly insane about how obediently many fellow citizens defend the most nonsensical measures, and how they find no objections to the erosion of freedom that results from the green cards based on mandatory vaccinations. About how they lecture you from above.

As far as I can remember, I have never experienced so much lack of forgiveness as I have just now — not even towards myself. The result is a breakdown in conversation. I can hardly listen anymore to people who still believe in the improvised warnings by Karl Lauterbach, the former advisor to Angela Merkel during the pandemic who is now Germany's health minister. I hardly feel like having people explain to me why the fourth, fifth and sixth booster vaccinations are also a moral duty.

Let's ban opinions on COVID — at least for a while

poster with mask wearing warning sign at a Christmas market with illuminated hristmas trees

Social barriers are part of the Christmas decor now

Maxppp via ZUMA Press

I now leave the room during news broadcasts whose presenters think they are government spokespeople and who turn every half-understood but somehow dramatizable figure into breaking news. But I'm also painfully aware that breaking off conversations has never actually led to good results, neither in the private nor political spheres. And we can't send the whole country to therapy. So maybe we need an experiment.

What would happen if politicians and the media alike imposed a COVID moratorium on themselves? If we, as friends, family members and neighbors, decided to let the subject rest? For example, until Three Kings Day on January 6? Of course, this is just a thought experiment. But the rules would be simple: all legal requirements would remain as they are for the moment; media would not print editorials on COVID, while the news pages would remain unaffected.

Of course, the experiment would have to be stopped in case of seriously relevant developments (in the last weeks, "the numbers" are continuously decreasing). But if this period, during which there is a Christmas lull anyway, could be sustained, we would all have the chance to break from constant alarmism. This would change little about the actual pandemic of course. But it might make a lot of difference when it comes to how everyone is feeling.

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