Thanks to mass tests and quick contact tracking of all cases, authorities can keep track of the pandemic and prevent chains of infection - so far the theory.
Because both have so far hardly worked in Germany, the country suffered a loss of control twice.
Months of lockdowns and drastic restrictions followed.
Has crisis management learned from the mistakes?
At least at the local level, new digital solutions are now gaining ground - the “Luca” software with an app connected has recently become a constant topic in newspapers and talk shows.
It was not until Sunday evening that the science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar and Smudo, co-developers of the app and front man of the music group “Die Fantastischen Vier” discussed the benefits of the application at “Anne Will” - and in front of one of the most important crisis managers, Chancellor Helge Braun (CDU ).
Science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar explains the advantages of the Luca app on the ARD talk show "Anne Will".
Source: NDR / Wolfgang Borrs
The principle of the app: All encounters are recorded and a visit history is saved so that in the event of infection, all contacts are notified and warned at the push of a button.
That could be two friends at dinner, or dozens of people sitting next to you on the train.
The app has several security levels.
The user only releases his contact lists without authorization and by confirming a tan code.
The program is already in use in 30 offices - they are in "good talks" with 200 others, says Luca founder Patrick Hennig to WELT.
There are a total of 375 health authorities nationwide.
If everyone were to guarantee efficient contact recording and tracking, large-scale events could theoretically take place again and politics could break away from self-imposed incidence limits such as 50 or 35.
The entire environment is notified in real time
Because these are not scientific values, but were mostly justified by the fact that no contact tracing was to be made above them.
In November, the government also declared the lockdown that in 75 percent of all cases the site of infection could not be determined.
Hennig does not want to be pinned to a specific value that Luca would create.
He only indicates this much: the current nationwide incidence, i.e. around 65 infections per 100,000 in seven days, can easily be managed, probably significantly more.
He is not interested in pushing this limit further and further.
“It is crucial that the entire environment is notified in real time in the event of an infection and that chains of infection are broken preventively.
That saves three to four days. ”What is needed is a perspective: away from prohibitions and towards safe opening.
“If we don't want to stay in lockdown forever, we need a concept for the next few months.
Otherwise we'll start all over again. "
But how does Luca work exactly?
Users receive a key on their smartphone via QR code and can use it to log in when they go to a restaurant - or create one themselves at private meetings.
The stored contact details are saved in a database.
Operators and organizers have no access to it.
In the event of infection, users send their visit history to the responsible health department, which can then inform all contacts in one fell swoop instead of laboriously investigating.
Many offices are done
Train tickets or boarding passes can also be added in a standardized way using the “Amadeus” software.
Open interfaces are being planned so that existing systems can be connected.
All data will be deleted after 14 days.
“In the end, what was previously organized using slips of paper should now happen digitally,” explains Hennig.
The federal government would like the offices to primarily use the software “Sormas”, which was co-developed in 2014 by the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research.
However, many authorities refuse to work with it - it is only used in 85 of 375 offices, even though the program had already proven itself in the successful fight against Ebola in Nigeria in 2019, for example.
Hennig and his team, who met at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, see no problem: "Luca ends where Sormas or other programs continue." The introduction only lasts about an hour.
Many offices are impressed by the quick solution and are open to its use.
The aim now is to prevent chaos like the one in summer and autumn 2020.
Back then, mountains of paper were piled up in restaurants, bars and shops.
If there was an infection, the authorities were happy to even be able to decipher the pencil scribble in the tables - only to often find wrong names such as Lucky Luke or Donald Trump.
In the end there was a loss of control and an exponential growth in infections.
Luca concept also has disadvantages
The chances that this mess of papers will end soon are not bad.
When WELT first reported about Hennig's team at Nexenio GmbH around three months ago, the founders, including the Berlin club operator Marcus Trojan, began cleaning the door.
Initially, a pilot phase started in some old people's homes and offices.
A lot has happened since then.
NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) was enthusiastic about Luca.
Co-developer and front man of the music group Die Fantastischen Vier, Smudo, tingles through the talk shows and promotes the program.
And many tourism and catering businesses are already on board.
“The whole of Sylt is already connected, so to speak.
Of course, they are hoping for a good and safe holiday season there, ”says Hennig.
Patrick Hennig developed the Luca app
Source: culture4life / Shah Eghbaly
However, the Luca concept also has disadvantages.
Above all, many users are still missing - one of the most important currencies for apps.
So far, the app has been downloaded in six figures.
"Of course we would like to have 50 million users," says Hennig.
He and his around 60-strong team are now hoping for copycat effects and motivation from outside: Anyone traveling to the North Sea in the near future can be obliged to check-in via Luca by the hotel or restaurant - otherwise access could be denied by the house rules .
In any case, the industry sees great hope in the app to reconcile security and freedom.
"Apps like Luca help fight the pandemic not with pen and paper, but with digital options," says Norbert Kunz, Managing Director of the German Tourism Association.
In this way, efficient, targeted and, above all, quick contact tracking can finally be made possible.
The solution could prevail at soccer games or concerts
However, one hurdle is the responsible use of users.
With a consistent implementation, every meeting would have to be documented - every short chat with colleagues in the hallway, every conversation with strangers, or even encounters that some people would like to keep secret.
And the federal corona warning app - which, according to Hennig, is complementary to Luca - has had a similar feature for a few weeks: a contact diary - which, however, is only used sparingly.
So is the concept being overtaken by reality?
"100 percent of all meetings will never be recorded, that's clear," says Hennig.
But in the future, larger gatherings are more important anyway.
This applies, for example, to football games or concerts.
Both could take place again soon, certainly under stricter conditions and with fewer visitors than before the pandemic.
“But imagine someone is infected in a stadium with 5,000 people.
The health department would have to collect the data from 5,000 people and call them afterwards, ”says Hennig.
"That can't go well."
If, on the other hand, the contact recording takes place uniformly and digitally, every visitor would be notified immediately - and can go into quarantine without authorization until they come to a test.
Discussions help the download numbers
Other countries have had similar concepts for months - probably thanks to lower data protection requirements.
The Luca team recently spoke to the head of the Chancellery, Helge Braun (CDU).
But the federal government is obviously reluctant to advocate an application from the private sector, including a start-up.
Hennig also spoke to Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU), but there is still no official recommendation.
Source: NeXenio GmbH
On Sunday evening, the software was once again the topic of prime time: the science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar presented Luca on the talk show "Anne Will", and Helge Braun was also a guest.
“The problem is that the Robert Koch Institute cannot see where the sources of infection are.
That's why we have to make them visible, ”said Smudo.
The Corona warning app can hardly do this using analog contact tracking and cannot detect any clusters.
"Why hasn't something like Luca been implemented in the official app long ago?
I can't understand, ”criticized Yogeshwar.
Braun's answer: “Why does the state always have to offer everything in Germany?
It's really nice that Smudo is sitting here today and has made an app that is an excellent addition to the Corona warning app. ”The discussion helped the download figures: the server was suddenly overloaded on Sunday evening.
The Robert Koch Institute is cautiously benevolent: "After the first impression, Luca can be a useful application for many event situations," MDR quotes the institute.
Local politicians such as Rostock's mayor Claus Ruhe Madsen (non-party), who sees Luca as part of the opening strategy, are already praising the city more exuberantly.
Hennig hopes that this will happen nationwide.
“Opening doesn't have to mean that society comes to a standstill shortly afterwards,” he says.
"We can prevent a third loss of control over infections."