A novel coronavirus is ravaging the earth and this epoch-defining plague is revealing a great deal.
In an existential crisis, people’s characters come to the fore. Some are still in denial about how serious this is and are taking risks which do not just put themselves at risk but also endanger countless others.
However, the vast majority of citizens are pulling together – and this means keeping their distance. With the exception of partners and core family members, the advice over the coming weeks and months is to keep a physical distance from other people. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be there for each other. And here so many wonderful examples of neighbourliness are becoming apparent, and all the creative ways one can think of to help others, without getting too close.
Governments and the EU institutions are now called upon to ensure that our European economy and the financial system are able to recover from the standstill. Many are worried about their jobs, whilst the self-employed fear their entire livelihoods will disappear. This is why the public sector is now called upon to come up with unorthodox aid measures.
I expect that EU member states all sing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to all the measures that need to be taken. Whether we’re talking about equipment for hospitals, closing shops, schools and nurseries or setting up border checks: there ought to be a little more coordination within the EU. Choosing to go it alone and failing to stand shoulder to shoulder will only worsen the crisis.
Those working in the public sector are on the frontline for everything that needs to be done at this difficult time. And truly, they are giving their all. Think of the nurses, carers and doctors, also particularly in the health departments, police and public order officers, educators providing emergency child care, the teachers putting together basic online classes in the toughest circumstances and so many more public sector workers in the most diverse fields.
Even if they are not employed by the state, I’d like to make a point of including people who work in supermarkets and drug stores and in the field of transport and logistics. Many people are playing a decisive role in making sure that society is supplied with the things it needs to survive. They are the guarantors of our society’s survival.
The public sector and critical infrastructure and many women and men – we all depend on them. But now they’re finally becoming visible. They are all heroes in the fight against the virus; they are the backbone of our society, even in normal times.
Our colleagues are lending a hand even when they are not in a position to protect themselves as well as they’d like. The fact that a lot of vital equipment is missing across Europe in the basic areas of services of general public interest is a scandal which we’ll need to deal with after the crisis.
SARS-CoV-2 shows us clearly where the ideology of the small state can lead us, as well as the extent to which public infrastructure has been starved of funds and, in some areas, bled dry. It shows that when push comes to shove, we all rely on a functioning public service and that without it continuing to function, we cannot uphold any public decency, the likes of which we need so badly now. Humankind must be placed front and centre, today, yes, but also tomorrow, when the crisis is over.
We will withstand this test by pulling together as citizens and especially by providing any help we can to those who find themselves on the frontline in the battle against the invisible enemy. And we independent trade unions, in our capacity as a key organisation for the public service in Germany, will make sure that society does not just return to business as usual once the crisis is behind us.
CESI Vice President
President of the German Civil Service Federation (dbb)