Protocols from the Robert Koch Institute assessing the corona situation sparked a debate in March. Who is behind the blacked-out names? A new version of the protocols provides some information.

Around two months after speculation about external influence on the Robert Koch Institute’s (RKI) risk assessment of the corona situation, the institute has published minutes of corona crisis consultations largely without redactions. The institute is making the documents available because of the “public interest”, it said on Thursday. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) had already announced this step in March.

The trigger was the publication of the protocols from January 2020 to April 2021 by the online magazine “Multipolar”. The portal, which has made it its mission to present different perspectives on social and political issues, has been associated by critics with conspiracy-theoretical publications. According to its own statements, “Multipolar” had enforced the publication of the published protocols through legal action following a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

The fact that numerous passages were blacked out at the time sparked a debate about the independence of the RKI. In a protocol dated March 16, 2020, the earlier version states: “It is to be scaled up this week. The risk assessment will be published as soon as (passage blacked out) gives a signal for this.”

“Multipolar” concluded that the tightening of the risk assessment as the basis for later corona restrictions was not based on a professional assessment by the institute, but on the political instructions of an external actor. His name was blacked out in the minutes. The Federal Ministry of Health had announced at the time that blacking out names was common in such contexts, as employees also had to be protected. In the version now published by the RKI, it is clear that the name of the then RKI Vice President Lars Schaade, who is now RKI President, is blacked out.

On Thursday, the RKI justified the blacking out with the protection of personal data, intellectual property, trade and business secrets, and special public interests such as internal and public security and international relations. The protocols have now been reviewed again to determine which passages still need to be made unrecognizable. According to the information, in the new version only certain personal data and trade and business secrets of third parties have been blacked out.

The documents cover the period from January 2020 to April 2021. “The remaining minutes up to the end of the meetings in July 2023 are to be published by the RKI as soon as possible after appropriate review and third-party participation,” the institute said on Thursday.