Coronavirus: Why does Germany have so few COVID-19 deaths?

Eintracht fans have taped letters at a wall of the stadium during a Europa League round of 16, 1st leg soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and FC Basel.
Eintracht fans have taped letters at a wall of the stadium during a Europa League round of 16, 1st leg soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and FC Basel. Copyright Michael Probst/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
By Anna Priese
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Germany has more than 3,000 COVID-19 cases and six deaths so far. Much fewer in comparison to other affected countries.


On Friday, the number of people in Germany infected with COVID-19 grew to 3,059. Six of them have died so far. That is roughly two people for every thousand cases.

These numbers stand out when compared to other heavily affected countries like China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain or France.

In China, it's roughly 39 deaths per 1,000 people infected, in Italy it's 71, in Iran 45 and in Spain it's 28.

How come fewer people are dying from COVID-19 in Germany than elsewhere?

At a press conference last Wednesday, Prof. Dr. Lothar H. Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin said, "From the beginning, we have very systematically called upon our doctors to test people."

He added that the German system can provide "testing to a high degree so that we can easily look into the beginnings of the epidemic."

Wieler also explained that this is just the beginning for Germany. "If you imagine an epidemic like a curve [...] then there are countries that are simply further" into the progression of this epidemic.

He expects the case numbers and the numbers of deaths to rise, just like they have in other affected countries.

The professor noted that Germany is exchanging information with other countries to learn about the development of the disease and is collaborating on concepts to contain the pandemic.

"As long as this epidemic continues to affect our country, it will take months, certainly, perhaps years.

He focused on the need to protect the high-risk group of people by not exposing them in the first place.

Meanwhile, an Italian virologist said the low number in German deaths "is a question no one can really answer".

Giovanni Maga from CNR told Euronews that in Italy a person who tested positive while alive or post-mortem is counted as a coronavirus-death. "I don't know if Germany or France follow the same criteria," he noted.

Maga also stated that healthcare structures are rather similar in northern Italy, France and Germany, making it harder to justify such discrepancies in numbers.

He agreed with Wieler with regards to the time curve and the progression of the pandemic. "France and Germany are where Italy was at the beginning of the month. They are late in implementing measures and will get to a point where they will have a harsher level of contagion."

Merkel expects 60 to 70 per cent to get infected

On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel had announced that it is likely that 60 to 70 per cent of the German population will get infected eventually and argued that it is important to delay that process as much as possible.

Head virologist at the Berlin Charite Christian Drosten told German newspaper "Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung" that if Germany manages to slow down the spread of COVID-19, death cases will just merge into the country's regular mortality rate.

Some experts expect the majority of the population to get infected in the years to come even after the development of a vaccine. It could take four or five years until most people in Germany have had COVID-19.

The main challenge is to slow this process down and not put too much pressure on the German health system.

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