Even during the corona pandemic, foreign countries were wondering what was going on in Germany in view of the breakdowns in this country. A journey through a country full of challenges. By Deutsche Welle author Oliver Pieper

Bonn, end of November, report from the Federal Network Agency: Germany’s mobile network operator Telefonica Deutschland, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone had undertaken to build new radio stations in 500 previously unoccupied areas by the end of 2022. That happened in just 95. Almost three percent of Germany is still in a dead zone, areas in which neither 4G/LTE nor 5G radio signals can be received.

Lüdenscheid, December 2nd: The bridge on Autobahn 45 in North Rhine-Westphalia is celebrating its anniversary, it has been closed to all traffic for 365 days. The damage to the bridge is so serious that it cannot be opened again for cars. Since then, the bridge has not been blown up, nor have contracts been awarded for the new construction. Commuters have been using detour routes for 12 months and have sometimes been stuck in traffic for hours. Nationwide, 4,000 bridges are in a critical condition and need to be renovated quickly.

Twitter entry from December 4th: “The ICEs Hamburg-Berlin are so overbooked that they cannot depart for 20-30 minutes. The trains only come in at walking pace, DB staff and people without a reservation should get out again. Adults hide in the toilet or block with suitcases.” Claus Weselsky, head of the German Locomotive Drivers’ Union, says: “The railway workers and I are ashamed of what we offer society.”

Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Saxony, December 12: Because classes are constantly being cancelled, desperate mothers and fathers write a fire letter to the Minister of Education. The curriculum at Sachsenring-Oberschule: Religion is no longer taught. Biology drops out in eighth grade. In the seven there are no more classes in music and social studies. Lessons are not cut in only three subjects. Up to 40,000 teachers are missing at German schools, and Saxony-Anhalt is now looking for its teachers via speed dating. At the same time, a study by educational researchers is published: one in five primary school students does not meet the minimum standards for German and mathematics.

Rheinberg, December 13: Because the municipal day care center has to close for two days due to illness, and this is not the first time, a mother is bursting at the seams. She grabs her son, marches to the town hall to hand her son over to the mayor for care. Totally taken aback, he interrupts an appointment to talk to his mother. She tells him about another mother who couldn’t do her vital chemotherapy the day before because she couldn’t get her son into care. More than 100,000 educators are wanted in Germany.

Anonymous testimony of a nurse in the ZDF program Frontal, December 13, about her shift in the emergency room: “I have experienced that during the waiting time, which is now up to 40 hours in the emergency rooms, the patients in these 40 hardly seen for hours. And when you go into the room at some point, the patients are lying there and have died, although they shouldn’t have died.” There are 50,000 nursing staff missing in the intensive care units of the hospitals.

Berlin, call for help from a pediatric nurse, December 14: “We simply have no staff. In the decades that I have worked in the clinic, I have never experienced such a high turnover in nursing and doctors. Those of us who are still there are crawling on their gums to somehow maintain the care.” Due to a lack of staff, 40 percent of the intensive care beds in the children’s clinics cannot be occupied. Some sick children from Berlin had to be transferred to Rostock, 200 kilometers away.

Berlin, fire mail from Major General Ruprecht von Butler to the Inspector of the Army after a target practice, published by Der Spiegel magazine on December 17. Not a single one of the 18 state-of-the-art Puma infantry fighting vehicles is operational: “You can imagine how the troops are now assessing the reliability of the Puma system, the operational readiness of the vehicle is becoming a lottery game despite all the good preparations.”

20 years ago, the German Armed Forces ordered 350 of the state-of-the-art armored personnel carriers at a price of 7.6 million euros each. Today the device cost about 17 million and is still not suitable for war. And the Puma is not the only construction site in the Bundeswehr: in the recent past there have also been massive problems with self-propelled howitzers, assault rifles, helicopters and submarines.

Somewhere in Germany, Saturday, December 17th: A child suffers from fever, sore throat and reddened tonsils, in the on-call practice for children the mother receives the diagnosis “Streptococcus A”. None of the many pharmacies that the mother calls have the prescribed penicillin in stock. The condition of the child worsens by the hour, the desperate mother receives the prescription for a replacement antibiotic in an online consultation.

But this is also not available in any pharmacy. In the end, she receives the drug from a strange mother, via a Whatsapp group, who has an unopened package at home. Seven hours have passed in the meantime. 330 medicines are listed on the supply bottleneck list of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Fever syrups for children in particular are hard to come by in German pharmacies.

Bergisch Gladbach, Sunday 18 December. The central heating fails at a junior high school. In all rooms the temperature drops to a cool ten degrees. No lessons can take place for days. On Wednesday the heating is still broken, there are only exams in a few rooms in the school, which have to be heated with electric radiators. “Children shouldn’t be allowed to freeze at school,” Karin Prien, the acting chair of the Conference of Ministers of Education, had already warned in October.

Twitter entry from a German clinic, Tuesday, December 20th: “Today three doctors sick with me, plus four medical assistants, including pain therapy. […] In intensive care many sick. Crisis meeting tomorrow because of the holidays. I’m fed up! I can’t take it anymore!” Gerald Gaß, head of the German Hospital Association, warns: “We should now be down nine to ten percent in terms of staff, which means that almost every tenth employee is sick.”

Thursday, December 22: Gerd Landsberg from the German Association of Towns and Municipalities on a law according to which it should be possible to apply for a driver’s license online by the end of 2022 in Germany, but the municipalities cannot keep up with digitization: “We are a very bureaucratic one Country with a very complicated structure. We have equipment and staffing problems. It’s not enough to say that we want to do everything online. You have to train the people and systems.” In terms of the level of digitization of the authorities, Germany only ranks 21st out of 35 European countries.

Bonn, Thursday, December 22nd: The Federal Network Agency warns that heat pumps and e-cars could soon overload the power grid. But the waiting times for the installation of heat pumps in Germany are three to nine months. Delivery problems and a shortage of skilled workers are also hampering the energy transition: there is a shortage of 17,000 construction electricians.

Thursday, December 22nd, the Rheinische Post quotes the response of the federal government to a small question from the Union faction about Deutsche Bahn: “In the opinion of the federal government, the current trend in punctuality is not satisfactory”. As announced, only 50 to 60 percent of long-distance trains roll into the stations. In 2022, Deutsche Bahn was less punctual than ever before.

The pension scheme for civil servants in the country is not sustainable in the long term. That’s what the economist Prof. Martin Werding claims and calls for cuts in civil servants’ pensions. In addition, Werding notes that it must be critically questioned whether officialdom is so necessary.

The original of this article “One country sends SOS – Germany at the limit” comes from Deutsche Welle.