Germany’s death rate amazes abroad

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Germany's death rate amazes abroad





© WELT / Daniel Franz
To be prepared for the expected onslaught of Corona patients, hospitals must keep their intensive care beds free. Surgical appointments are postponed, new capacities are built up. The clinics in France are already overloaded. Source: WELT / Daniel Franz


It is a German special route, and it is met with admiration internationally, but also with skepticism: despite the increased number of infections (22,672 cases and 86 deaths according to the Robert Koch Institute of March 23) the number of deaths in Germany remains low compared to other countries.

Compared to other European countries, the Germans have a death rate that is below one percent, unlike countries like Italy (nine percent) and Great Britain (4.6 percent). This is despite the fact that a similarly aged population lives here in Italy as in Italy.

So why is the currently relatively low mortality? the British “Guardian” , the “Financial Times” (FT) and the “Daily Mail”. “Germany’s low mortality fascinates experts,” writes the Guardian, for example. And if the numbers are really lower, or simply measured differently, the British keep asking themselves.

Younger infected especially now?

A wide range of possible explanations is weighed up. Among other things, it is conceivable that, for example due to the infection during ski trips (Ischgl in Austria is the pivotal point for numerous chains of infection), initially infected mainly younger patients who were at lower risk of death, write the “Guardian” and the “FT”, who rely on medical professor Matthias Stoll from the University of Hanover.


NEUSTADT, GERMANY - MARCH 23: A doctor prepares himself at a roadblock for his mission at the quarantined village of Neustadt am Rennsteig in Thuringia state on March 23, 2020 near Neustadt, Germany. Local authorities announced the measure last night following the confirmation of 11 cases of COVID-19, the disease resulting from infection with the coronavirus, in Neustadt and the surrounding Ilm region. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have topped 24,000 across Germany, and so far Thuringia, with approximately 250 cases, has seen a relatively low number of infections. (Photo by Jens Schlueter / Getty Images)


© Getty Images / Jens Schlueter
NEUSTADT, GERMANY – MARCH 23: A doctor prepares himself at a roadblock for his mission at the quarantined village of Neustadt am Rennsteig in Thuringia state on March 23, 2020 near Neustadt, Germany. Local authorities announced the measure last night following the confirmation of 11 cases of COVID-19, the disease resulting from infection with the coronavirus, in Neustadt and the surrounding Ilm region. Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have topped 24,000 across Germany, and so far Thuringia, with approximately 250 cases, has seen a relatively low number of infections. (Photo by Jens Schlueter / Getty Images)


“These are mostly people who are younger than 80 and fit enough to go skiing or doing similar activities. Your risk of death is comparatively low, ”says Stoll. The downer: This limitation to a younger section of the population would not be maintained if the virus spreads further.

However, Germany started testing early and broadly and consistently sent the sick to quarantine, the media reports continued. Another special feature of the German infrastructure is the high number of test laboratories that evaluate tests. According to the head of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Lothar Wieler, up to 160,000 tests can be carried out per week in Germany – that’s more than has been done in total in some European countries.

However, it is not known exactly how many tests were carried out in Germany as a whole. It is also conceivable that, for example, in Italy the number of unrecognized infected people (i.e. the number of unreported cases) is significantly higher and the mortality rate is actually statistically lower.

Also conceivable: that the virus has been circulating in Italy for much longer than expected. Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, is published in the English edition the “South China Morning Post” quoted as saying: “The virus may have been circulating long before we identified it.”

In parts of Lombardy there were “strange cases of pneumonia” last November and December, which were characterized by a severe course and a high mortality rate among older people, Remuzzi continues. At that time, not even the country of origin China officially admitted the existence of the disease.

Italy’s north has numerous economic connections to the People’s Republic due to its strong textile industry.

Emergency rooms in Germany are not yet overloaded

Another aspect discussed for an at least temporary advantage of Germany over other countries: Unlike in Italy and Spain, for example, the German emergency rooms would (not yet) overrun by seriously ill patients, there is still no supply emergency that could further increase mortality.

Again and again, reference is made to the high rate of intensive care beds per head in Germany: Germany currently has a total of 25,000 intensive care beds, with 10,000 more to be built in the coming months. For comparison: France had 7000 beds before the crisis, Great Britain only 5000 places in the intensive care unit.

But there are also cultural differences that could explain the different numbers. One of them is this: Germany’s pensioners often live less closely with their families, as is the case in Italy, for example, where often several generations live under one roof, or young and old at least very often have contact. This physical proximity naturally increases the risk of infection, the media reports continue.

Again and again the question of post mortem tests

In addition to a certain admiration, there is also skepticism about the German measurement methods. For example, Italy also posthumously tests for corona viruses, said Giovanni Maga from the Instituto Genetica Molecular in an interview with “Euronews”. According to the Robert Koch Institute, this does not happen routinely in the event of death in Germany, but only on request. However, a high number of unreported deaths is unlikely. In Germany, every person who died and suffered from corona at the same time was counted as a “death in connection with a corona infection” – even if another previous illness ultimately caused death.

In spite of all admiration: Germany’s virologists warn that if the pandemic progresses, the number of deaths in Germany will also increase significantly. Politics and science are still hoping to avert this. “We are at the beginning and can still implement all necessary measures”, said Lothar Wieler from the Robert Koch Institute last week. The next few days and weeks will show whether action was taken quickly enough.

All current information and recommendations from the Ministry of Health can be found here.

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