Far from continuous operation: National Pandemic Reserve is making little progress


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Far from continuous operation
National Pandemic Reserve making little progress

The corona pandemic has made it clear that Germany has hardly taken any precautions for these exceptional circumstances. That should change afterwards. But there is not much to see of it yet.

The federal government has failed to achieve its self-imposed goal of setting up a National Health Protection Reserve (NRGS) in the event of a new pandemic. This is reported by the “Welt am Sonntag”, citing information from the Federal Ministry of Health. This reserve of masks and medicines was decided in June 2020 by the black-red government at the time. It should ensure that Germany is no longer dependent on overpriced deliveries from abroad in emergencies, for example for masks and medicines.

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, the expansion of the reserve is still in the early stages. A spokesman for the newspaper said further financing was unclear. A three-stage plan was planned: The first step was to stockpile masks and protective equipment left over from the pandemic period. In a second step, the reserve should be stocked up with goods such as pharmaceuticals and medical devices produced by local companies. The amount must therefore be sufficient to supply the health sector for one month. In the third phase, which was planned for 2023, continuous operation should begin, and from then on production capacities should be available for half a year.

But after almost three years, according to the house of SPD Minister Karl Lauterbach, the development of the reserve is still in phase one. “For phases two and three, no budget has yet been allocated for further conceptual design and possible procurement,” said a spokesman. So far, 245 million masks have been stored, which were procured at the beginning of the pandemic and can be used until the end of 2023, and in some cases until 2026.

set priorities

The ministry had already spent almost 750 million euros on the program in phase one in 2021, at that time still under CDU department head Jens Spahn. According to “Welt am Sonntag”, this emerges from the budget of the federal government. However, the ministry did not want to say whether and what has been stocked so far in addition to protective masks.

The spokesman only explained to the newspaper that the reserve had not yet been fully created because the additional money needed was missing: “The Federal Ministry of Health had registered 250 million euros in budget funds for the years 2022 and 2023 and 50 million euros for each of the following years from 2024 Euro.”

These funds are intended “for storing goods and maintaining production capacities and new goods production”. However, the Federal Ministry of Finance rejected the release in October 2022. In the home of Federal Finance Minister Christian Lindner, responsibility was rejected: in the course of drawing up the budget, the departments are fundamentally free to “set appropriate priorities”.

Gear from China again?

The health policy spokesman for the Union in the Bundestag, Tino Sorge (CDU), criticized it as “a sign of poverty that the traffic light is obviously blocking itself again on this issue”. He urgently calls for clarification on what the 750 million euros were spent on.

The federal government encouraged medium-sized companies to set up domestic production. Now the prospective orders have not materialized, criticized concern. “In the next crisis, we will buy the protective equipment from China again.”

Kathrin Vogler, health policy spokeswoman for the left faction, thought it was “completely negligent to ignore prevention again”. With a view to the cancellation of the FDP-led Ministry of Finance, Vogler said that the chancellor party SPD was constantly being “led through the arena by the smallest coalition partner on the nose ring”.

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