BERLIN — As the coronavirus pandemic raged through the United States last summer, an old school friend from Arizona wrote me full of admiration for Germany’s handling of the crisis.
For years, he, along with other American friends and my family, drew boundless schadenfreude imagining the daily difficulties I must face as an American among the supposedly humorless “krauts.”
But now, as the U.S. struggled to cope with the pandemic, they looked across the Atlantic with envy, even humility. In contrast to the U.S., where politicians had fumbled the pandemic response from the beginning, Germany appeared to many Americans to have done everything right. By any measure, from the availability of PPE to the infection rate, to total deaths, Germany’s handling of COVID-19 was far superior to the U.S.’s.
How “crazy” it must be, my friend wrote, to be “an American journalist in Germany watching from afar as the U.S. basically falls apart.”
My German friends agreed. I was lucky, they told me, to reside in a country that functions, one led by a trained scientist and not an “incompetent lunatic.”
But six months later (most of them spent in the confines of my home), I don’t feel so lucky.
This week, Germany will enter its fifth-straight month of lockdown with no end in sight. Though infection rates have declined in recent weeks, it remains unclear when schools and shops, not to mention restaurants and bars, will reopen. Amid the uncertainty, small businesses across the country are facing ruin. Such fears, coupled with frustration over the seemingly neverending restrictions, have soured the national mood. read more…