Why should 2020 be better

Stephan Rammler: "We should have been better prepared"

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The coronavirus has brought large parts of society and economy to a standstill around the world. Governments are taking tough measures to contain the virus so health systems can cope with the high numbers of people infected. Pandemics like this are just one possible crisis scenario that we have to adapt to, says futurologist Stephan Rammler. But our society can learn from the corona crisis.

ZEIT ONLINE: Mr. Rammler, as a futurologist, did you expect to experience such a major crisis one day?

Stephan Rammler: There has been enough evidence that pandemics are likely in a globalized world. This is shown by pandemic scenarios from a few years ago. So from a scientific point of view, I expected it, but personally, of course, I suppressed it.

ZEIT ONLINE: Should we have made more provisions for such a crisis?

Rammler: Yes, we should have been better prepared. Of course, that is easy to say in retrospect. That is why we, futurologists, must be humble. But politics and the public want answers. So we have to find a balance between the complexity of the situation and the need, as scientists, to provide public information. For me, like other crises, Corona is a kind of burning glass: You see the fault lines of a society particularly clearly and can draw the right conclusions from them. Beyond reproach, we should talk about how our society can become more resilient to future crises, such as the health system.

ZEIT ONLINE: Are crises really predictable? Can you prevent them?

Rammler: There are historical situations in which one has to say: the situation is so complex, it could not be foreseen. But one should have known that we need a well-equipped, fair health system that is made for the masses. And that it is risky for society as a whole if the poor do not have health insurance, see USA. They go to work because they can't take sick leave and then they spread the virus. In contrast, we have a largely functioning health system in Germany. Other countries will see how we did it.

ZEIT ONLINE: Nevertheless, there is also great concern here that the health system could reach its limits. How can that change for the next crisis?

Rammler: Policies that are heavily privatized and deregulated make systems vulnerable. The health system is then unable to deal with crises. This may be opportune in day-to-day business, but the system is not prepared for risks.

ZEIT ONLINE: What exactly has to change?

Rammler: First of all: Politicians must ensure that people in the health system are paid decently, are well educated and that there is enough medical material. This is particularly important in a society that is getting older and more vulnerable. A well-equipped health system is not a luxury, but a service of general interest. We are currently seeing that in Great Britain and the USA: There are unequal, elitist systems that are highly technical, but not fair. The economy is now also suffering in such a way that it is not yet possible to assess the consequences of this. It could cause an entire society and the political system to become unstable.