Germany sets example with aggressive testing

With only 67 deaths from nearly 20,000 cases as of March 20, Germany is far better placed than Italy, which has reported 4,032 deaths and over 47,000 cases.
A sign hangs in the window of a butcher shop explaining a minimum distancing rule between the customer and the vendor in Munich, Germany. Germany may impose a nationwide lockdown in the coming days as Bavaria became the first state in the country to enforce severe restrictions on citizens in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.(Bloomberg)
A sign hangs in the window of a butcher shop explaining a minimum distancing rule between the customer and the vendor in Munich, Germany. Germany may impose a nationwide lockdown in the coming days as Bavaria became the first state in the country to enforce severe restrictions on citizens in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.(Bloomberg)
Updated on Mar 22, 2020 07:17 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

In the past week, Germany has overtaken several nations to find itself on number four on the list of countries in terms of total Covid-19 infections, but it has managed to keep its fatality rate relatively low. Scientists attribute the disparity between the number of confirmed cases and death rate to a handful of factors, primarily Germany’s aggressive testing strategy.

With only 67 deaths from nearly 20,000 cases as of March 20, Germany is far better placed than Italy, which has reported 4,032 deaths and over 47,000 cases despite the two countries sharing a similar demography and reporting their first cases in the same week. This means that while Italy has more than twice Germany’s case load, its death toll is nearly 60 times worse.

“Test, test, test” has become the best recommendation for tackling the virus, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In this aspect, Germany has not faltered. Lothar Wieler, president of Germany’s disease control and prevention agency, the Robert Koch Institute, said that German labs were performing 160,000 tests every week.

With an estimated 280,000 tests as of March 20, Germany has conducted more tests than several other European countries combined. For context, Italy, has conducted 26% fewer tests.

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Mass testing helps Germany monitor the fatality rate as it allows officials to detect cases that show no symptoms, and thus have a much better chance of survival if cases are detected in nascent stages, scientists say

Another key factor is the age of the patients infected in Germany. According to official data, the majority of confirmed patients in Germany are under the age of 60 – over 80% – which also explains the low death rate. In Germany, the median age for Covid-19 patient is 47 years, while in Italy, it is 63 years. In fact, more than 70% of patients in Italy are above the age of 50, according to government statistics.

However, the German government struck a note of caution as many of the cases remained in the early stages of the coronavirus. “We are at the beginning of an epidemic… Over 1,000 people have already survived the virus. But many will also get seriously ill. And we have to be able to provide them with medical care,” Wieler told local news outlets last week.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Jamie Mullick works as a chief content producer at Hindustan Times. He uses data and graphics to tell his stories.

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