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On the Corona Pandemic

Why the Giordano Bruno Foundation refrains from making statements on COVID-19


Deserted: The forum at the foundation's headquarters "Haus Weitblick"

The Giordano Bruno Foundation had already cancelled all events until May 2020 two weeks ago, i.e. before the corresponding administrative instructions had been given. While the foundation is working intensively on the pandemic internally, it is refraining from making any further statements due to the currently still very unclear data availability. "A serious transdisciplinary study of the virus, its spread and its consequences is now required," says gbs board spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon, "no further fueling of the rumour mill".

After the Giordano Bruno Foundation had received numerous inquiries as to why it did not, as a "Think Tank for Humanism and Enlightenment", comment on COVID-19, and after the major Swiss tabloid "Sonntagsblick" had made the cancellation of an interview by gbs spokesman Michael Schmidt-Salomon the hook of yesterday's edition's editorial, the philosopher explained his position, which also determines the current policy of the foundation, as follows (own translation):

I am often asked why I do not speak out publicly about the Corona pandemic. The answer is: I feel unable to say anything substantial about this crisis as long as the data situation is as fragmentary and contradictory as it is at present. Until we know how many people are actually infected with SARS-CoV-2 (and not just registered as "corona cases"), and until we know how many of those who are actually infected do not develop any symptoms at all (i.e. do not contract COVID-19 but transmit the virus), how many of these actual cases of infection show a mild, a severe, a very severe, or even fatal course of disease, we are all taking stabs in the dark and all the colourful curves and graphs only give us the impression of an exactness that is not supported by the data provided.

I do not envy the politicians who have to make serious decisions on the basis of such uncertain and dynamic forecasts. I would, however, expect them to make statements about what should happen after the lockdown (which is useful for flattening the infection curve and securing the health care system!), which we cannot maintain for months on end for social, economic and political reasons. One thing is clear: we must make intensive use of the breathing space provided by the lockdown to a) clarify the scientific facts on the basis of a transdisciplinary approach (i.e. not only from the point of view of virologists and epidemiologists), b) advance medical research in the field of diagnosis and therapy, c) massively expand intensive care medicine, and above all d) prepare effective protective measures for risk groups.

In this context, we should also be aware that the moralistic question "money or life?" is wrongly posed, because if the economic system collapses, the health care system can no longer be maintained. If the international financial system (which is already on shaky ground) collapses, the consequences would be catastrophic for millions upon millions of people. The responsibility for such a global catastrophe would then not only lie with SARS-CoV-2, but with our inability to respond rationally and evidence-based to this challenge.