Kaiserslautern- turning the crisis into new chances and preserving an everyday life

Klaus Weichel

The past months have posed one fundamental question to all of us: How can we face the worst public health crisis known to our generation?

The great pandemic Covid-19 put us all through very rough times and we are yet not aware of the health risk that is still existent. Nevertheless, the virus quarried many aspects of our life that we must reconsider if we want to come out as a firm and strong unity. It put us in a position where we can learn so much about us as a society and our ability to transform negative aspects of life into opportunities.

Humans all over the world were locked in a battle against something that is microscopical small and invisible to human eyes. A Virus. The Corona-pandemic changed the whole world within a few weeks. Every city, community and every single person was directly confronted with the impact of such a global event, be it economically, socially, or simply in everyday life. Countries have been put into lockdown, schools closed, events cancelled, industries shuttered, people were told to work from home and funds were released. Like many other cities Kaiserslautern had to react immediately to unknown challenges that came with this viral disease.

After all we went through, we must say that Kaiserslautern has resisted with praiseworthy arrangements and digital solutions. Of course, our city already had various smart strategies and a digitization agency, which has been very useful. From one day to another, we could dispose workplaces for the work at home. Face-to-Face meetings were now held online just like most of our social contacts.

There was one aim, we badly wanted to accomplish: Preserving a part of everyday life as we were used to it. To do so, we made a great effort to preserve the cultural life with the help of live-streaming. The benefit was mutual: artists and musicians were given an opportunity to perform in a time of unplanned inactivity, citizens enjoyed concerts and Live acts while performing social distancing. As a municipality we wanted to preserve normal life continuously even in hard times. The immediate response to the crisis started just a week after the lockdown began. Kaiserslautern had to come up fast with new media and a new technical concept. Born out of the crisis, the joint project of KL.digital, the digital agency of the city, and the city administration has established itself to a great event. For eight weeks various live acts were digitally accessible for everyone, on social media as well as on local TV. Groups were formed on social media, people watched and commented on the livestreams together, almost as if there was a regular audience.

Despite social-distancing people came closer together and freelance artists had the possibility to perform on stage and get some financial support. There were all kind of music genres, literature, and comedy – the citizens of Kaiserslautern were offered a various range of entertainment. New networks formed and the cultural community demonstrated solidarity. The Live-Streams made people forget the crisis for an hour. Moreover, several artists took the opportunity to make first digital steps, jumping right into the cold water with a push from Corona, taking the crisis as a thorny chance.

Taking all aspects into consideration, we must assume that many changes have come to stay. During our livestreams, many disabled people reached out to us and were very thankful as they now had the chance to celebrate cultural life with others at home. This might be a good point to take with us in a post-pandemic time, where livestreams unite people with and without handicaps.

During the lockdown we also got to know our neighbours better and found a live style that celebrates togetherness. People were so helpful to each other, neighbours supported neighbours and formed networks to aid those who were especially endangered through pre-existing illnesses. Digital platforms were raised, also within our administration, to connect people that needed help and people giving help. Furthermore, online deliveries for restaurants, department stores, pharmacies and much more were offered, centralized on only few online platforms, to give an overview for as many services as possible. Even our education office offered links and tips, e.g. new ideas how to entertain kids at home, or important references how to get advice, if someone felt overstrained, alone and so on.

To evaluate crucial questions about how to manage the crisis specifically for Kaiserslautern and to develop possible future scenarios, we also set up an advisory board of experts from science and practice that supported the administration crisis board. They brought the necessary scientific skills to evaluate the relevant technical and legal foundations and calibrate them for Kaiserslautern. On this basis, future scenarios are to be modelled to estimate the effects of further measures. It still is important to be able to anticipate and evaluate dangers and new problems at short notice, and ideally to submit proposals for solutions directly.

This is how Kaiserslautern tried and still tries to make the best out of such uncertain times. Covid 19 showed us what really is possible if only the people stay strong together and act in concert to surpass the limits of a severe crisis. It taught us many lessons, that we will profit from in our future in post-pandemic-times. As John F. Kennedy once said: “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters- one represents danger and one represents opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” This is a Maxime we can all learn from.

Klaus Weichel
Mayor of Kaiserslautern



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