Leopoldina advises politicians and society on the coronavirus pandemic

The Leopoldina has published ten ad hoc statements and other publications on the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. These address the medical, psychological, social, ethical, legal, educational, economic, and health and education aspects of the pandemic. In total, more than 90 researchers from the relevant disciplines were involved in the publications. This page contains all ad hoc statements and other publications in chronological order.

27. November 2021 – "Coronavirus pandemic: clear and consistent measures – immediately!" (Ad Hoc Opinion no. 10)

The Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences today publishes the ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: clear and consistent measures – immediately!"The paper focuses on urgently needed measures with the aim of containing the fourth wave of infection quickly and efficiently.

The 10. Ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic appears in the series of ad hoc statements with which the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences has made recommendations on medical, psychological, social, ethical, legal, pedagogical, economic, and health and education policy aspects over the past two years.

As the National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina provides independent science-based policy advice on socially relevant issues. For this purpose, the Academy prepares interdisciplinary statements based on scientific findings. Therefore, the present statement also reflects the perspectives of the scientific disciplines involved. Making decisions while taking into account the interests of numerous other stakeholders is the task of democratically legitimized politics.

The detailed tenth ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: Clear and consistent measures – immediately!" is available for download here.

10. November 2021 – "Antiviral agents against SARS-CoV-2: Current status and approaches to improve preparedness for future pandemics" (Ad hoc statement no. 9)

The availability of highly effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 represents a major advance in the management of the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, there is still a need for action in the development of antiviral drugs. On the one hand, effective and inexpensive antiviral drugs specifically against COVID-19 are needed. On the other hand, with a view to future pandemics, broadly effective drugs should be developed that are effective against different types of a virus family. This is pointed out by the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina in its ad hoc statement "Antiviral agents against SARS-CoV-2: Current status and approaches for improved preparation for future pandemics" published today towards. In the publication, the scientists explain why such drugs are needed, how they are identified and developed, and what organizational structures are required for this purpose.

Specific agents against SARS-CoV-2 will still be important if the virus becomes endemic and circulates persistently in parts of the population after the pandemic has subsided. Severe courses of the disease could develop, for example, in unvaccinated persons, in persons who do not build up sufficient immune protection even after repeated vaccination, or in persons whose vaccination protection wears off after some time. Ideally, the drugs should be easy to administer, effective and comparatively inexpensive. "The few existing drugs against SARS-CoV-2 are not enough. Highly effective agents that can be used as early as possible after infection are important to stop virus replication and pathogen transmission", says the chemist and virologist Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Prof. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Dr. Prof. Dr. Helga Rubsamen-Schaeff, spokesperson of the working group and member of the Leopoldina. Agents against SARS-CoV-2 are also needed from a global perspective. Easily available drugs for swallowing or inhalation are also of great importance in those regions of the world where the population does not have sufficient access to vaccines and a medical infrastructure.

From the experience of the coronavirus pandemic, the scientists deduce the need for better preparation for emerging pathogens. "Development of active agents must not begin after a new pandemic virus has emerged. It should be vigorously pursued in advance,", says virologist Prof. Dr. Ralf Bartenschlager, also spokesman of the working group and Leopoldina member. Important concept here is broad-spectrum agents – drugs that are effective against as many species of a virus family as possible. For this purpose, virus structures and functions that hardly change are selected as targets. Other targets include cellular factors such as virus binding sites on human cells and agents that stimulate the immune system to increase resistance to infection.

To improve pandemic preparedness, it is important to strengthen both basic and translational research that accompanies the transition to clinical practice, and to develop broad-spectrum drugs with activity against viruses with pandemic potential to a certain level of maturity. The working group recommends the creation of an organizational structure that links the necessary infrastructures. It would also make sense for academic institutions to cooperate with biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies. In order to be able to provide effective therapies much more quickly, especially in the event of a crisis, representatives of regulatory authorities and politics should also be part of such a network, in addition to research institutions.

In the academic context, a coordinated study infrastructure is needed to serve the transfer into medical practice. Germany largely lacks structures for early pilot studies, but also for large-scale clinical trials, states the research group. The experts advocate networking testing centers, outpatient care, public health services, nursing facilities and university outpatient clinics.

Another recommendation of the working group is to better epidemiologically monitor circulating virus strains and their pandemic potential by, among other things, providing public health with better access to sequencing capacity and sequence databases to quickly detect new emerging virus variants and track their spread.

The detailed ninth ad hoc statement "Antiviral agents against SARS-CoV-2: Current status and approaches to improve preparedness for future pandemics" is available for download here.

21. July 2021 – "Economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic – diagnoses and options for action" (statement)

The coronavirus pandemic poses new kinds of challenges for economic and social policy in Germany in the medium and long term and has intensified previously existing need for action. In its statement "Economic Consequences of the Coronavirus Pandemic – Diagnoses and Options for Action," published today, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina analyzes the current economic and sociopolitical situation and derives possible courses of action to cope with the impending structural change. The researchers identify options for action in four thematic areas: structural change and preconditions for sustainable economic growth; inequality and distribution; the performance of government organizations at both the national and international levels; and the sustainability of public finances.

The statement discusses new challenges, but also those that were already known before the coronavirus pandemic and have been further exacerbated by it. Based on a diagnosis of the situation, options for policy action are identified in four thematic areas. At the current time, there is not a precise empirical basis for developing economic policy options for action on all topics. Nevertheless, it is already possible to identify potential for improvement in the area of government action and possible contributions to an economic recovery process that meets the conditions of social and environmental sustainability. "The pandemic can become an opportunity for a broad-based social modernization initiative, especially in the area of government action," says Prof. Regina T. Riphahn Ph.D., Speaker of the working group and Leopoldina vice president.

The first area of action for economic policy analyzed in the statement is overcoming the medium- and long-term effects of the pandemic on economic performance. This can succeed through framework conditions and targeted measures that spur economic structural change and strengthen future growth potentials. "Digitization and accelerated structural change should not be feared as a threat, but should be pursued as a prerequisite for higher overall economic productivity," says Prof. Dr. Christoph M. Schmidt, speaker of the working group, president of RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research Essen and member of Leopoldina.

As a second area of action, the working group discusses measures to counteract the pandemic’s multifaceted medium- and long-term consequences for the distribution of wealth and the persistence of social inequality. These relate to education and further training, the promotion of gender equality and the design of the social security network. Educational losses suffered during the crisis in particular threaten to have a long-lasting impact. The working group suggests, among other things, that in the event of possible future school closures, online classes should be made compulsory on a daily basis and that extensive support measures should be offered for children and young people from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

As a third area for action, the statement identifies potential for improvement in the area of government performance. The working group proposes to establish an independent non-governmental commission after the crisis subsides. This would have the task of identifying the causes of any deficits in government action at all federal levels, up to and including international coordination of crisis management, and of developing proposals for solutions. For example, the extent to which faster data collection, administrative modernization, especially in the public health service, and mandatory learning assessments in the education sector can improve crisis management should be examined.

A fourth area of economic policy action after the pandemic, according to the working group, will be to maintain and strengthen the sustainability of public finances at national and European level, so that in the event of another major crisis we will again be in a position to provide support and cushion the greatest impact. The working group recommends weighing up reform options in the context of national and European debt rules on the one hand and state investment activity on the other. At both levels, economic policies should be subject to rigorous monitoring and critical evaluation. In addition, the ability of local authorities to act must be ensured through appropriate measures.

The detailed statement "Economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic – diagnoses and options for action" can be downloaded here.

21. June 2021 – "Children and adolescents in the coronavirus pandemic: psychosocial and educational challenges and opportunities" (Ad Hoc Opinion No. 8)

The coronavirus pandemic has multiple implications for children and adolescents in terms of education, social interaction, socioemotional development, physical activity, and psychological well-being. Many affected individuals will be able to overcome the effects. Some, on the other hand, will be accompanied in the medium and probably also in the long term by the deficits they have suffered. To address these, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina recommends in the ad hoc statement "Children and Adolescents in the Coronavirus Pandemic: Psychosocial and Educational Challenges and Opportunities" published today the establishment and expansion of support and educational structures. These should sustainably address currently existing inequalities in educational and developmental opportunities and not only compensate for pandemic-related disadvantages, but improve the situation compared to the pre-pandemic status quo.

Inequalities and developmental risks existed before the pandemic, especially in education, social interaction, socioemotional development, and physical activity. Mental disorders caused the greatest burden of disease in children and adolescents. The ad hoc statement released today describes findings from studies that also capture the pre-pandemic situation and thus provide information on pandemic-related stresses. Even if scientific findings on the effects on children and young people can only be snapshots due to the dynamics of the situation and are limited in their informative value due to the still short observation period, they nevertheless provide indications of where there is a need for action in the short, medium and long term.

Based on the scientific findings before and during the pandemic, the experts recommend that attendance at educational institutions should once again be made possible across the board, subject to appropriate protective measures (such as masks, hygiene, regular testing), because this is the most effective way for almost all daycare and school children to learn. "Against the background of the spreading delta variant, it is absolutely necessary to maintain the AHA+L rules and tests in schools as protective measures. Indoors, where the necessary distance cannot be maintained, a medical mask should continue to be worn throughout," says Prof. (ETHZ) Dr. Gerald Haug, president of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. At the same time, the digital infrastructure of educational institutions is to be expanded more rapidly.

With regard to support and learning opportunities, the statement recommends sustainable language support for learning the German language through standardized early language diagnostics and the expansion of language education integrated into everyday life as a fixed component of day care for children. In elementary schools, the timetable is to be adjusted to give priority to catching up in the core subjects of German and mathematics. Additional support instruments for students with weaker school performance in primary and secondary education are important. In addition, information services on support measures should be expanded.

To promote health and motor development better than before, the experts recommend expanding an infrastructure for children and young people that promotes physical activity, ideally daily physical activity programs in daycare centers and schools and programs to promote a healthy lifestyle in terms of nutrition, sleep and physical activity. In order to sensitize professionals in daycare centers and teachers in schools to mental health problems of children and adolescents, they should receive further training and the existing infrastructure of school social work should be expanded. Outside of school, it is important to expand evidence-based measures in child and youth welfare and in the therapy of childhood and adolescent mental disorders. The waiting period for a therapy place should be shortened, the scientists recommend.

The detailed eighth ad hoc statement, "Children and adolescents in the coronavirus pandemic: psychosocial and educational challenges and opportunities," is available for download here.

8. December 2020 – "Holidays and new year offer opportunity for pandemic containment" (Ad Hoc Opinion No. 7)

The current situation remains serious and threatens to worsen further. Despite the partial lockdown that has been in effect in Germany since the beginning of November, infection figures are at a very high level. Several hundred people die every day. Hospitals and especially medical staff are already at their limits and health departments are overburdened.

To regain control of the infection event, the Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences recommends a two-step approach in the ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: use the holidays and the turn of the year for a hard lockdown," published today. The general conditions – Christmas vacations in educational institutions and restricted operations in many companies and public authorities – offer the opportunity to make great progress in containing the pandemic.

Experience in other countries (z.B. Ireland) in dealing with the pandemic show that quickly implemented, stringent measures over a short period of time help significantly to reduce the number of infections and keep them low in order to regain control over the infection process. The experts point out that tightened measures also make sense from an economic perspective: Although a hard lockdown increases value-added losses in the short term, it also shortens the period of time until new infections have decreased to the point where relaxations are possible.

As early as 14. December 2020 contacts would have to be reduced to the absolute minimum in the professional as well as in the private sphere. Home office should be the rule wherever possible. Compulsory school attendance should be suspended in all federal states by the start of the Christmas vacations. Group activities in sports and culture would have to be discontinued and, wherever possible, digital options should be used instead of face-to-face ones.

As of the 24. December 2020 until at least 10. January 2021, public life should be largely suspended throughout Germany and a hard lockdown should apply. For this purpose, in addition to the activities offered from 14. December proposed measures, all stores except those for daily needs will be closed and Christmas vacations in educational institutions will be extended. In the paper, the researchers also give recommendations for behavior during the holidays. Among other things, vacation travel should be avoided during this period and gatherings should only take place in the closest stable circle of people.

For the restart of teaching from the age of 10. January 2021, wearing mouth-nose protection in class should be compulsory for all grades in all federal states. In addition, uniform country rules should be developed for alternate teaching starting at the secondary level, which take effect once a certain incidence is reached.

What is also needed is long-term political agreement on a clear, multi-tiered, and uniform nationwide system of rules that would apply above a certain number of cases per 100.000 inhabitants take effect. A uniform and comprehensible procedure makes the measures transparent, comprehensible and plannable for citizens and companies.

The detailed seventh ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: use the holidays and the turn of the year for a hard lockdown" can be downloaded here. A PDF document containing the seven published position papers in 2020 is available for download here.

9. November 2020 – Recommendations for equitable and regulated access to COVID-19 vaccine (Joint Position Paper of the Standing Commission on Vaccination, the German Ethics Council, and the National Academy of Sciences)

First vaccines to protect against COVID-19 could be licensed as early as early 2021. At least initially, vaccine doses will probably not be available for all those willing to be vaccinated. That is why prioritization is necessary. The position paper published today brings together medical-epidemiological aspects of infection prevention with ethical, legal and practical considerations. From this, the authors develop a framework for action for the initial prioritization of vaccination activities against COVID-19.

Prioritization supports decisions about who should receive which vaccines as a priority. This must not be determined solely on the basis of medical-epidemiological findings. Ethical and legal considerations must also be taken into account.

Currently, according to the experts, decisive results from the ongoing clinical trials (phase 3) on the properties of the vaccines are still missing. As a result, it is not yet possible for the STIKO to make a detailed recommendation on the groups of people who should be vaccinated as a matter of priority. However, the ethical and legal principles according to which prioritization must take place have already been established: In addition to self-determination, these are non-injury or integrity protection, justice, fundamental legal equality, solidarity and urgency.

These ethical and legal principles are reflected in concrete vaccination goals: prevention of severe COVID-19 courses (hospitalization) and deaths; protection of persons at particularly high occupational risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 (occupational indication); prevention of transmission as well as protection in environments with high proportions of vulnerable persons and in those with high outbreak potential; maintenance of governmental functions and public life.

The paper points out that the distribution of the initially scarce vaccines affects ethically and constitutionally relevant values and therefore requires a clear legal regulation. The distribution of vaccines must also be organized in such a way as to ensure that the vaccination goals are achieved. Suitable new structures are needed for this. A uniform, transparent and thus confidence-inspiring as well as acceptance-securing distribution is required. This argues for a vaccination strategy based not on individual primary care physicians, but on government-mandated vaccination centers.

Vaccinations require informed, voluntary consent as a matter of principle. Therefore, prioritization criteria must be presented to the population in a comprehensible way. The authors of the position paper also rule out an undifferentiated, general obligation to vaccinate.

A self-determined vaccination decision requires continuous, transparent information and education of the population on the effectiveness of vaccination and its risks, according to the experts. In order to identify and minimize possible vaccination risks at an early stage, a prompt nationwide recording of all vaccinations and an evaluation of adverse events in temporal connection with vaccination must be established. To this end, the authors call for product-specific recording of COVID-19 vaccinations in a central database, also to accurately determine vaccination rates.

The complete position paper can be downloaded as a PDF here.

27. October 2020 – "Scientific organizations on the coronavirus pandemic: the situation is serious" (joint statement by the President of the German Research Foundation and the Presidents of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association, the Max Planck Society and the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina)

There has been a dramatic increase in coronavirus infections in Europe over the past few weeks, which has now also reached Germany. This is no longer controllable in many places because of the high number of cases, and may result in a considerable number of people needing treatment in hospitals and a significant increase in the number of deaths in Germany. To prevent this from happening again, the president and presidents of six scientific organizations call for clear decisions that are implemented quickly. Currently, the spread of the virus in many regions can no longer be adequately tracked by the health authorities due to capacity constraints. To make this follow-up possible again, contacts that potentially lead to infection would have to be systematically reduced. The earlier and more consistently all contacts that take place without the currently applicable hygiene and precautionary measures would be restricted, the shorter these restrictions could be.

It is important to react clearly, quickly and sustainably. It would be necessary to reduce contacts without precautionary measures to a quarter and to carry this out in all federal states as well as in all districts and cities according to nationwide uniform rules. The earlier this consistent reduction of contacts without precautionary measures takes place, the shorter it can last and the less psychological, social and economic collateral damage is caused. With a drastic reduction of contacts without precautions of each individual to a quarter, the pandemic could be contained, they said.

The aim is to reduce the number of cases to such an extent that the health authorities can once again carry out contact tracing in full. As soon as this is possible, the restrictions could be cautiously relaxed without the immediate threat of another pandemic wave. However, this must already be prepared now. After about three weeks of significant reduction in contacts without precautions, it will be critical to uniformly and consistently enforce the known infection control measures (AHA+L+A) nationwide to maintain the low number of cases that will then be achieved. Risk groups should be consistently protected by targeted measures, communication of precautionary measures should be improved, and hygiene concepts should be sharpened and monitored.

The complete joint statement is available for download as a PDF here.

23. September 2020 – "Leopoldina calls for clear and uniform corona rules for autumn and winter" (Ad hoc statement no. 6)

The number of new coronavirus infections has been rising again in Germany since the end of July. With temperatures dropping and group activities moving indoors, there is a risk that the pandemic will again develop in a way that is difficult to control. This is what the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina writes in the ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: establish effective rules for fall and winter".

Protective measures must be taken now to address this threat in a timely manner and to maintain public life in the coming months. The Leopoldina appeals to federal and state officials to quickly agree on nationwide binding, effective and uniform rules for the entry into force of precautionary measures and to implement and enforce the latter more consistently than before.

The scientists point out that the increase of infections with SARS-CoV-2 in other European countries such as France, Spain, the Netherlands and Austria or in Israel is already more obvious than in Germany. A vaccine against coronavirus will not be available in sufficient quantities before spring 2021, even according to optimistic estimates. The effectiveness of drug therapies has also been limited so far. With the onset of cold and influenza season, the challenge of distinguishing illnesses with similar symptoms from COVID-19 also increases.

Against this background, to keep the number of infected persons at a low level in the coming months, the Leopoldina recommends in its sixth ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic:

1. Consistently adhere to protective measures: The scientists emphasize that the AHA rules (keeping your distance, hygiene, everyday mask/mouth/nose protection) and regular air exchange in rooms are still the most important and effective means of keeping the pandemic under control. In view of a possible tense situation in autumn and winter, uniform rules and escalation levels for protective measures should be defined nationwide, which take effect depending on the regional infection occurrence. They should be regularly reviewed and adapted if necessary.

2. Rapidly and selectively test, shorten quarantine and isolation times: To control the incidence of infection, the statement recommends, among other things, the targeted use of testing depending on the risk of infection, as well as the provision of laboratory-independent testing methods to more quickly distinguish between SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptom-like illnesses such as influenza. To reduce negative impact on individuals, family members, and the economy and society, the isolation period after symptom onset could be shortened to about one week if disease is confirmed. Laboratory tests can be used to assess momentary infectivity. Also, the quarantine period of persons who have been exposed to a high risk of infection (category I contacts, for example, contact with a proven infected person or stay in a risk area) could be reduced from 14 to 10 days according to recent estimates.

3. Facilitating responsible behavior: In the coming months, the successful containment of the pandemic will depend on whether the known protective measures can be implemented even more consistently than before, the experts said. To facilitate this, citizens needed addressee-specific prepared and barrier-free accessible knowledge, motivation and the possibility to act accordingly as well as clear rules. Equally important and motivating is the transparent communication of the principles, procedures and goals of political decisions.

4. Mitigating social and psychological consequences: The statement points out that psychological stress has increased in the pandemic, with potential long-term consequences for the health of many. Therefore, support structures are more necessary than ever, especially a significantly increased psychotherapeutic and psychiatric offer as well as counseling offers with regard to prevention and therapy.

With this statement, the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina presents the sixth ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. It is based on the state of research in the scientific disciplines involved. It is the task of democratically legitimized politicians and the responsible institutions to make decisions. The first five published ad hoc statements have dealt with health, psychological, social, legal, pedagogical, educational and economic measures in dealing with the pandemic.

The detailed sixth ad hoc statement, "Pandemic Coronavirus: Establish Effective Rules for Fall and Winter," is available for download here. A PDF document with the five previously published statements is available for download here.

5. August 2020 – "Coronavirus pandemic: for a crisis-resistant education system" (ad hoc statement no. 5)

The coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain the infection have meant that many daycare centers and schools have been temporarily unable to fulfill their educational mandate at all, or only to a very limited extent. A reliable technical and organizational infrastructure that could absorb a complete closure of educational institutions is not yet in place in Germany. Children and adolescents, their families and educational professionals are therefore particularly affected by the current crisis.

In its ad hoc statement published today, "Coronavirus pandemic: for a crisis-resistant education system," the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina identifies measures that are suitable for making the existing education system more resilient and flexible under crisis conditions. The statement is addressed to the responsible actors in the education system, i.e. ministries, state institutes, educational institutions as well as daycare centers and schools.

The primary goal is to maintain access to educational institutions for as long as possible, according to the statement. However, as long as there is neither a vaccine nor widely available therapies, the risk of infection must be reduced in educational institutions. Depending on the local infection situation, partial closures are again possible in the coming months. The experts therefore also recommend investing in a sustainable digital system of distance learning to complement classroom teaching.

The authors of the ad hoc statement from the fields of education, educational research, didactics, psychology, economics, sociology, theology, virology, and medicine name measures in seven fields of action:

1. Maintaining access to educational facilities: Hygiene and infection control measures, systematic testing for coronavirus, and attention to the special needs of at-risk groups among children and educational staff, as well as among members of both groups, are recommended. In order to avoid the complete closure of individual educational institutions, fixed contact groups (for example, classes) should be set up wherever it makes sense, with as few points of contact with each other as possible. The aim is to ensure that the children and young people in a contact group remain in personal contact with each other and with the educators for as long as possible.

2. Developing concepts for dovetailing face-to-face and distance learning: Facilitating learning and education is the core competency of educational professionals, including during periods of distance learning. Parents can only support here. If possible, the federal government and the states should develop a cross-state solution for digital learning platforms that have been tested under data protection law. In addition, the statement recommends cross-state frameworks, for example, for examinations in phases of distance learning. To enable educational professionals to share quality-assured materials and content through the platforms and interact with children, adolescents, and their parents during periods of distance learning.

3. Provision of a suitable, secure and data protection-compliant digital infrastructure: Initial financial prerequisites have been created by the "DigitalPakt Schule" (Digital Pact for Schools). Technical equipment, support, maintenance, repair, and development of educational media should be supported by a cross-national advisory board that includes experts from educational administration, educational practice, educational research, and information and knowledge management.

4. Supporting pedagogical specialists and teachers in the professional use of digital media: Support is needed with regard to digital infrastructure and technical equipment, the provision of suitable digital teaching aids and materials, and training opportunities.

5. Strengthening cooperation and communication with parents and families: The experts recommend, among other things, regular (video) consultation hours, coaching services for parents, and materials for age-appropriate support services.

6. Supporting children and young people with learning and achievement gaps: As a focal point, the promotion of mathematical and linguistic precursor or. Basic competencies recommended, which are fundamental for further learning.

7. Strengthening the knowledge and information base: Research and evaluation help to scientifically assess effects of daycare and school closures and effectiveness of newly introduced teaching and learning methods, and to adapt them to current needs.
Additional resources are needed for the recommended steps, according to the experts. The extensive measures to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic have so far included comparatively little investment in education and the future opportunities of the generation now affected.

With this statement, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina presents the fifth ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. It is based on the state of research of the participating scientific disciplines. Making decisions in the field of education, taking into account the perspectives of stakeholders, is the task of democratically legitimized politics and the responsible institutions.

The first four ad hoc statements published have dealt with acute health policy measures in dealing with the pandemic, with the psychological, social, legal, educational and economic measures that can contribute to a gradual return to social normality, and with measures for a resilient and adaptable health care system.

The detailed fifth ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: Towards a crisis-resistant education system" is available for download here. A PDF document with the four previously published statements is available for download here.

27. May 2020 – "Coronavirus pandemic: medical care and patient-oriented research in an adaptive health care system" (ad hoc opinion no. 4)

The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has published its fourth ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic. It is dedicated to the topic: "Medical care and patient-oriented research in an adaptive health care system". The paper focuses on short- and medium-term aspects of medical and nursing care under conditions of a prolonged pandemic and identifies long-term measures for a resilient and adaptable health care system.

The authors recommend a demand-oriented and not primarily profit-oriented system, which is oriented towards patient welfare and works in a quality-assured manner. It would have to value all employees and integrate innovations and digital solutions. The goal is an adaptive health care system in which the public health service, the outpatient sector and the inpatient sector work well together and there is rapid translation of research results into clinical practice.

The coronavirus pandemic has presented the German healthcare system with extraordinary challenges in recent weeks. The confrontation with a new viral disease has shown, according to the statement, how important it is to have a health care system that is oriented to patient welfare and at the same time close to research. Protective measures against infection with SARS-CoV-2 as well as the conversion of medical care to the potentially high number of seriously ill COVID-19 patients had at the same time led to the fact that outpatient and inpatient care for people with other illnesses had taken a back seat. Important preventive measures and research activities had also been interrupted. The goal would be to resume the need-based prevention, diagnostics and treatment of all patients in a timely and complete manner.

To ensure that all patients can be cared for during the ongoing pandemic, the authors consider in the short and medium term consider the following framework conditions to be necessary:

  • Provision of outpatient, inpatient and post-inpatient capacities as well as personnel, space and technical reserves for the care of COVID-19 patients
  • Establishment of a regional and in-hospital early warning system for SARS-CoV-2 infections
  • Implementation of scientifically supported, targeted testing strategies
  • Strengthening public confidence in safe treatment oriented toward patient welfare
  • Provide high-quality care to all patients by rapidly integrating research findings into clinical practice

Health care in crisis situations and quality-assured and science-oriented medical care for the population are the responsibility of the state. For the long-term Further development and safeguarding of the health care system should generally take into account the following points:

  • To ensure high-quality, science-based, and ethically responsible care for all patients
  • Establishment and continuation of regional care and research networks with defined areas of responsibility for the health care institutions and a special function for university medicine
  • Adequate supply of qualified medical and nursing personnel
  • Digitization and networking of all hospitals and outpatient providers
  • Long-term safeguarding of care tasks, for example by supplementing the current flat rates per case with structural components and avoiding misguided incentives
  • social esteem, appropriate remuneration, attractive and demand-oriented training structures and good working conditions for medical and nursing staff

With this statement, the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina presents the fourth ad hoc statement on the coronavirus pandemic in Germany. The first three ad hoc opinions published have dealt with acute health measures in dealing with the pandemic, as well as the psychological, social, legal, educational and economic measures that can contribute to a gradual return to normality in society.

The detailed fourth ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic: medical care and patient-oriented research in an adaptive health care system" including the authors is available for download here. A PDF document with all published statements is available for download here.

13. April 2020 – "Coronavirus pandemic – overcoming the crisis in a sustainable way" (Ad hoc Opinion No. 3)

The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina has published a third ad hoc statement on the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper, entitled "Coronavirus Pandemic – Overcoming the Crisis Sustainably," addresses the psychological, social, legal, educational, and economic aspects of the pandemic and describes strategies that can contribute to a gradual return to social normalcy.

The authors of the statement emphasize that, in light of the mental, social, economic, civic, and political problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, rapid containment of the spread of the pandemic must remain a top priority. Although the pandemic will continue to dominate economic and social life for months to come, it is now necessary to go beyond the acute restrictions on key fundamental rights (such as freedom of movement) and develop criteria and strategies for a gradual return to normality. A prerequisite for such a gradual easing, the statement said, is that new infections stabilize at a low level, the health care system is not overburdened, infected people are increasingly identified, and protective measures (hygiene measures, mouth-to-nose protection, distance rules) are followed.

The paper addresses issues of data- and model-driven decision support and perspectives to be included in balancing legal interests. Recommendations to mitigate psychological and social impacts continue to be proposed. In addition, measures for the economic and financial sectors as well as the education sector are explained. The statement identifies the following principles as the framework for this: the protection of every individual and the enabling of a life in dignity, as well as the gradual restoration of the social, economic, political and cultural capacity of citizens to act. All measures should be based on the guiding concepts of sustainability and resilience.

The third opinion complements the two opinions on health policy issues in dealing with the pandemic of 3. April and of 21. March. These recommendations are still valid. Furthermore, according to the researchers, the current strong focus on COVID-19 patients should not lead to an underuse of care for others with the disease. Sufficient intensive and protective capacities should be kept in reserve for new outbreaks of the pandemic. The health care system should be analyzed and adjusted accordingly. In addition, research into effective medicines and the development of vaccines that are available quickly and in large quantities must be massively advanced, he said. The National Academy of Sciences will continue to closely and actively monitor the course of the pandemic.

The detailed third ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic – overcoming the crisis in the long term" including the authors can be downloaded here.

3. April 2020 – "Coronavirus pandemic – health-related measures" (ad hoc opinion no. 2)

The Leopoldina National Academy of Sciences has published a second ad hoc statement entitled "Coronavirus pandemic – health-related measures". The paper focuses on health-related measures that can contribute to a gradual normalization of public life. Three are considered particularly important: 1. widespread use of mouth-nose protection, 2. Short-term use of mobile data and 3. Expansion of testing capacities.

The paper complements the ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic in Germany: challenges and intervention options" of the interdisciplinary working group of 21. March 2020. In it, the participating scientists described measures to contain the epidemic, to protect vulnerable populations, and for a targeted increase in capacity in the public health and health care system. The health policy recommendations are still valid. They will be supplemented in the new paper, taking into account developments in the meantime.

Currently, health-related measures are particularly important. In addition, immediate and long-term societal as well as economic consequences must be considered and factored into decisions. The Leopoldina is currently developing further statements with recommendations for a sustainable "ramp-up" of public life and the economy.

The detailed second ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic – health-relevant measures" including the authors can be downloaded here.

21. March 2020 – "Coronavirus pandemic in Germany: challenges and intervention options" (ad hoc statement no. 1)

An interdisciplinary working group of the Leopoldina has dealt with medical perspectives of the pandemic. The resulting ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic in Germany: challenges and intervention options" discusses possible health policy options for action against the further spread of coronavirus in Germany.

The actions taken by the federal and state governments to contain the current coronavirus pandemic are urgent at this time and are commensurate with the threat posed by the pandemic. They consist of the triad: containment of the epidemic, protection of the vulnerable population, and a targeted increase in capacity in the public health and care system. Scientific evidence exists for the effectiveness and necessity of some of these measures, while others are proposed based on projections and political considerations. Drug and vaccine development must be pursued with the highest priority. Medical ethical aspects must be taken into account.

There are indications that, at the present time, a Germany-wide temporary "shutdown" (ca. 3 weeks) with consistent spatial distancing is recommended from a scientific perspective. At the same time, necessary and health-preserving activities must remain possible. All efforts in the coming weeks and months should be directed toward ensuring that pharmaceutical interventions and protective measures become available in public spaces and that capacity exists to test suspected cases and entrants. Preparations must be made for the controlled and selective ramp-up of public life and the economy during the "shutdown" period.

With a temporary "shutdown" the working group discussed a nationwide stringent exit restriction until at least after Easter. The situation would then need to be re-evaluated. This would not mean a ban on work, a ban on food shopping, or a ban on family walks. The goal is the consistent use of home offices, if at all possible. Disciplined spatial spacing of individuals of 2 meters is also crucial, especially if they do not live in the same household.

The detailed ad hoc statement "Coronavirus pandemic in Germany: challenges and intervention options" including the authors can be downloaded here.

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