The German Coronavirus Response

Soldiers of the German army at a coronavirus testing site in Sankt Wendel, Germany, on Thursday.
A coronavirus testing site in Sankt Wendel, Germany. Image Credit: Ronald Wittek/EPA

I thought it would be interesting to take a break from Germany history today and focus on the most pressing issue in Germany today, the coronavirus. Germany, like most nations around the world, has been hit by the coronavirus. The nation’s first case was recorded on January 28th when a man who works for a company that owns two plants in Wuhan tested positive for the virus. The German government, however, was able to contain the outbreak by quickly quarantining the man’s contacts. The virus, though, has since then spread via other outbreaks and at this point there are almost 64,000 cases in Germany. The nation has implemented similar lock down procedures to those in the US. Schools, most shops, and restaurants are closed. Further, gatherings are banned. The nation’s economy has also been damaged and many have lost their jobs. The current situation in Germany, however, is better than the one in Italy, Spain, or even the UK. Germany’s death rate of around .7%, as of Saturday, is far lower than Italy’s 11% or Spain’s 8%, and Germany has only half as many deaths as the UK does even with its far larger number of cases. The German government has done a better job of caring for the infected and also of slowing the spread of the virus, Germany reported its first case earlier than Italy and Spain did, and so can focus its already superior healthcare system on fewer patients. Perhaps most critically for the low death rate, the median age of an infected person in Germany is relatively low, 46. Italy’s median age is 63. A far larger proportion of Germany’s positive cases are young people. This is in large part due to Germany’s testing policies. The nation tests more people than Italy or Spain does, and it tests people who show few or no symptoms. Such people are generally young.

Germany must not become complacent, however, as the nation simply may be behind the curve relative to Spain and Italy. The nation does have a modern and well-funded healthcare system, but that system has not been tested before and may see shortages of beds and protective gear if the number of cases continue to rise. Even the lower fatality rate is only somewhat reassuring; it rose from .48% to .72% in just a few days last week. Germany will almost certainly fare better than Italy, Spain, China, and maybe even the US, but things will get worse before they get better and the nation must be ready for weeks and even months of economic shutdown and social isolation.

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