the beginning of last year, the German Ministry of the Interior worked together with several scientists on a strategy to increase the fear of corona in order to foster understanding of far-reaching corona measures. That‘s what the newspaper Die Welt reports on the basis of a leaked mail exchange.
Minister of the Interior Seehofer and the scientists involved have not responded so far. Opposition parties require clarification.
The e-mails date from March and April 2020, when Germany was in the first lockdown. Seehofer was concerned about oversimplifications and instructed his Secretary of State Markus Kerber to come up with a plan to create support for stricter measures.
Kerber sent an e-mail to several scientists, universities and research institutes asking for a worst-case scenario to get a “mental and planned” grip on the situation. This would help to plan ‘preventive and repressive measures‘.
The scientists provided plenty of suggestions, including proposals to put “fear and obedience among the population” on the agenda, writes Die Welt. For example, campaigns could be used with images of people dying in respiratory distress because there are no IC-beds available.
Warnings for millions of dead
Remarkably, scientists “negotiated” among themselves about the possible death toll that should be mentioned. The RKI, the German RIVM, proposed to work with their estimate of 0.56 percent of infected people, but an employee of the RWI, an influential economic research institute, argued for the death rate of 1.2 percent.
He wrote that they had to think “from the purpose of the model”, namely to emphasize “a great pressure to act” and therefore to represent the figures “better worse than too good”.
Both mortality rates are included in the final strategy paper of the Ministry. For the worst case scenario, they used the percentage proposed by the RWI. If the government does not intervene, 70 per cent of the population could become infected and the deaths could fall into the millions, Seehofer warned several times at that time.
The e-mails were supposed to be kept secret. They were released after months of proceedings by a Berlin group of lawyers, who forwarded them to Die Welt. In the e-mails, the names of scientists have been made illegible. It is clear that Lothar Wieler, the boss of the RKI, was involved in the mail exchange. The RKI does not want to say anything about it, because it would be an “internal discussion paper”.
‘Opinions on order‘
Secretary of State Kerber has already responded to the article in Die Welt. The e-mails should not be seen as a “comprehensive theoretical treatise”, he says in Die Welt. He says they were “faced with the task of preventing a worst-case scenario”.
The opposition demands clarification from Seehofer. Politics cannot get “opinions on order” from science, says group chairman of Die Linke Dietmar Bartsch in Die Welt. In his view, politics and science are doing each other a disservice, because trust in science is damaged.
The liberal party FDP wants a statement from the ministry‘s interior committee tomorrow. FDP member Konstantin Kuhle writes on Twitter that it is normal for science and politics to exchange ideas, but “tailor-made” results cannot be presented, he believes.