Massive testing, patient ages, medical system capabilities, and government confidence in Angela Merkel are factors that could explain the low mortality rate in Germany in the case of the coronavirus epidemic, according to the New York Times.
The pandemic has hit Germany severely, with already 92,000 cases of infection. But the percentage of fatal cases was remarkably low compared to the situation in many neighboring countries.
They are called corona taxis: doctors in protective suits who travel on the streets of Heidelberg to check the condition of patients at home. They do blood tests, they notice signs that could indicate deteriorating health. I can recommend hospitalization even for patients who have mild symptoms. “There are such signals in the first week after infection,” says Professor Hans-Georg Krausslich, head of the Virology Department at the University Hospital in Heidelberg.
The so-called corona taxis are just one of the initiatives in Heidelberg. But it highlights the level of involvement and mobilization of public resources to fight the epidemic, which helps explain one of the biggest curiosities about the pandemic: why is the death rate in Germany so low?
The country is severely affected: according to data provided by Johns Hopkins University, there are over 92,000 coronavirus cases. Most cases have only the United States, Italy and Spain. But there are only 1,295 deaths in Germany, a mortality rate of 1.4%, compared to 12% in Italy, 10% in Spain, France and the UK, 4% in China and 2.5% in the USA. Even South Korea, a model to reduce the epidemic peak, has a higher mortality rate, 1.7%.
“There is talk of a German anomaly,” says Hendrik Streeck, director of the Institute of Virology at the University Hospital in Bonn.
According to experts, the answer lies in a combination of statistical distortions and real differences in how Germany fights the epidemic. The average age of infected persons is lower in Germany than in other countries. Many of the first patients got the virus from the ski resorts of Austria and Italy, being relatively young and healthy people. “It started as an epidemic of skiers,” explains Professor Krausslich.
As the infections spread, older people were affected, and the death rate, which was 0.2% two weeks ago, increased. But the average age of those infected remains relatively low, being 49 years old, compared with 62.5 years in France and 62 years in Italy.
Another explanation for the low mortality rate is the large number of tests performed in Germany. There are several asymptomatic people or mild symptoms, so the number of illnesses, but not deaths, is increasing. “Automatically, the death rate drops on paper,” explains Professor Krausslich.
But there are also significant medical factors that contribute to maintaining a low death rate in Germany. The main factors are the extended testing, the treatments applied in the early stages, the large number of places in intensive care and a credible government system, which facilitates the observance of the social spacing recommendations, observes NYT.
“In Germany we have so few deaths at this time compared to the number of infected people because there are extremely many diagnoses in the laboratory,” explains Dr. Christian Drosten, head of the Virology section of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin.
To date, Germany has performed on average around 350,000 coronavirus tests per week, far more than any other European country.
“If we have an early diagnosis and can treat the patient from the beginning, for example by coupling to an artificial ventilation device before his condition deteriorates, the chances of life loss are much higher,” underlines Professor Krausslich.
In addition, medical personnel, who are at high risk for getting the virus, are regularly tested.
“Testing and finding contacts are the elements of the successful strategy in South Korea, and we have tried to learn from this model,” explains Professor Hendrik Streeck.
In addition, Germany has a solid public health system. For example, before the pandemic, the Giessen University Hospital had 173 places for intensive care, writes Mediafax. “We have such a large capacity that we now accept patients from Italy, Spain and France. We are very strong in the area of intensive care,” says Susanne Herold, a specialist in pneumology.
Beyond mass testing and the capabilities of the medical system, many analysts believe that another reason why the mortality rate is low is the leadership exercised by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Chancellor Angela Merkel communicated clearly, calmly and regularly throughout the crisis, gradually imposing rules of social spacing. Restrictions, which are essential to slow the spread of the pandemic, have met with little political opposition and are widely respected. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s popularity is very high.
“Perhaps the greatest strength we have in Germany is the rational decision-making process at the highest level of government and the confidence that the Government enjoys among the population,” underlines Professor Krausslich.