Manual infection tracking in German restaurants | Society

German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil during a visit to a restaurant in Berlin last week.
German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil during a visit to a restaurant in Berlin last week.HANNIBAL HANSCHKE / Reuters

A couple of older ladies park their walkers in an elegant café in the center of Hamelin in northern Germany. Before ordering a snack, like other customers, they must fill out a form with their personal information. The idea is that if there is an outbreak of coronavirus in the premises, the owners can contact them and the rest of the clients who were at the time of the contagion in the coffee, they can be quarantined and if necessary, take the test for covid-19 although they do not present symptoms. Breaking the chain of contagion, by all possible means, including analogue, is a fundamental part of the German strategy to prevent the exponential spread of the virus. The slowdown in infections in Germany has allowed the gradual reopening of public life and schools, without any significant upturns being recorded so far.

In the State of Lower Saxony, where this city famous for its flute player is located, the hotel trade reopened on May 11. In addition to the use of forms, a sign detailing the measures in force at the establishment’s cafeteria counter: the tables are at least two meters apart, reservations are encouraged online or by phone to avoid queues At the entrance, there is a disinfectant dispenser for customers at the door and guests are invited to consult the menu through the code posted on the tables that can be read on the mobile phone. Experts however advise in Germany to use terraces and outdoor establishments whenever possible, considering that the risk of infection is greatly reduced.

The infection law is the one that regulates the distribution of functions in the event of epidemics such as the current one, and gives states the power to adopt the necessary measures to combat infection. Every Land It designs its measures, according to a spokeswoman for the German Ministry of Health, who details that in the case of restaurants there are no national guidelines. But the truth is that the use of forms in restaurants is repeated throughout the country and what happens in Hamelin is no exception. In 11 states it is mandatory and in four others it is recommended.

At a remote restaurant in Wildewiese, a small ski resort in neighboring North Rhine Westphalia, the waitress gives the customer a very similar form to fill out. It is necessary to write the name and surname, the address, the telephone number and the one of the table where the diner sat, as well as the date and time of the visit to the establishment. The employee explains that they keep all the forms for four weeks and that if there is an outbreak they immediately inform the municipality’s health office, which is responsible for tracking infections. Strengthening these offices is one of the ongoing processes, since according to the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced in April, throughout the country there must be a minimum of five teams of people dedicated to tracking for every 25,000 inhabitants.

This weekend an outbreak has transpired in a restaurant in the Leer district, in the north of the country. The number of positives has reached 14 and a quarantine has been ordered for 118 people. The causes of the transmission have not yet been clearly clarified and the local administration is investigating whether the hygiene measures have been followed. The first investigations indicate that it was a private celebration and not ordinary visits to a restaurant. Incidents like this show the importance of having a registry of diners that allows them to be located quickly.

The number of infections in Germany has stabilized in recent weeks on the downside. Data released Monday by the Robert Koch Institute indicates that in the last 24 hours there had been 289 new coronavirus infections and 10 deaths. In total, there are 178,570 people infected with covid-19 since the start of the epidemic, but 161,200 have already been cured. Many of the infections have occurred in outbreaks located in slaughterhouses or in a religious celebration during this weekend, in which more than a hundred people were infected.

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