Philip Hofbauer is Austrian but has lived in Frankfurt, Germany for most of his life. He works in a management position for a large aviation corporation. He says the people of Germany saw the coronavirus as the annual flu, but soon changed their minds after seeing outbreaks in other European Union countries such as Spain and northern Italy.
“I was skiing in Austria during that time,” says Hofbauer, “and considering the tiny distances in Europe and our open borders, I consider myself pretty lucky that I didn’t take the virus with me or at least I never showed any symptoms.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken about the pandemic and has warned this is only the beginning. Germany has reported more than 150,000 COVID-19 cases.
“The German government was rather reasonable with its measures against the virus spread. Germany was very lucky that it contained the outbreak pretty well, and never overburdened its hospital capacities so far,” explains the Austrian.
Having seen what happened in Spain and Italy, Hofbauer hopes there will be more solidarity between EU countries. He added Germany’s wealth depends on this solidarity.
The aviation industry, where Hofbauer works, has been hit hard and he thinks it will take years before it recovers to “pre-corona” levels. The manager says cargo flights are full at this time. Seats have been removed from passenger planes to bring supplies to and from Europe.
Germans are all on “short hour work,” which allows companies to keep their employees for a minimum of 12 months even though they have almost no revenue coming in. The state, in any case, pays up to 80 percent of employees’ salaries.
“Everybody has healthcare,” explains Hofbauer, “nobody needs to avoid going to the hospital just because they are unemployed or from a lower-income class. we tend to complain about our high tax burden and high social security costs, but now it really seems to pay off. I think that is critical to keep the social peace in a country.”
Social distancing has been more of a mental process than a real issue. Hofbauer describes the unfulfilling nature of seeing friends and family over video calls, but considers this his “first world problems.”
Hofbauer aims for a bit of hope.
“Being an optimist, I believe that most societies will learn a lot from this pandemic and also show many great signs of solidarity and support. That should also happen on a global scale because we’ll see the long-term effects of this for quite a while,” he said.