The ‘Querdenken’ or ‘Lateral Thinkers’ protests in November 2020 led to a sharp increase in coronavirus infections in Germany. This is shown by a recent study by ZEW Mannheim and the Humboldt University of Berlin, which analyses the impact that the two large ‘Querdenken’ rallies that took place in November 2020 had on the seven-day incidence rate by the end of December.

 The study by ZEW and Humboldt University shows that up to 20,000 infections could have been prevented.
Dr. Martin Lange, ZEW researcher and co-author of the study, explains how and why a mobile minority can have an enormous impact on public health.

The study examined the chain of infection in the counties from which tens of thousands of protestors travelled from to the rallies in Leipzig on 7 November and in Berlin on 18 November 2020. In order to determine these precise locations, the authors of the study relied on information regarding bus travel services offered by a network of bus companies that has specialised in transporting protestors to the ‘Querdenken’ rallies since summer 2020.

After the protests the seven-day incidence rate increased considerably in the counties containing cities that had a bus connection to the rallies, compared to counties without these connections. This resulted in an increase to the seven-day incidence rate of 40 in the affected counties in the run-up to Christmas.

Researchers estimate that between 16,000 and 21,000 COVID-19 infections could have been prevented in the weeks preceding Christmas, had both of these large ‘Querdenker’ rallies been cancelled. The analysis by ZEW Mannheim and the Humboldt University of Berlin therefore quantifies for the first time the conflicting objectives between the restriction on fundamental rights of freedom and the public health measures taken in order to prevent infections. According to the study by ZEW Mannheim, personal conduct, such as when individuals violate the measures in place by not wearing a facial covering or by disregarding social distancing rules, can have a big impact on public health. “A small, mobile minority of people who do not obey the current hygiene rules can pose a great risk to other individuals,” stresses Dr. Martin Lange, ZEW researcher and co-author of the study.