Coronavirus Around the World – Germany
Coronavirus in Germany: Distancing and Testing
OTL City Guides are designed to be the go-to for all kinds of lifestyle information. However, we never thought we'd be sharing stories about life during a global pandemic and, particularly, what's been unfolding in Germany.
Unfortunately, lifestyle these days seems to completely revolve around the Coronavirus COV-19 crisis. While so many of us are cooped up at home, it can be easy to forget that we're not the only ones going through this where we live. So, we've asked writers from around the globe to share their experiences.
Two parts to this story
In this blog post about the Coronavirus in Germany, we're first sharing a personal story from Vanshika. She's a young student who lives in Allgäu, which is a beautiful area in Bavaria (Southern Germany) Vanshika talks about how Germans still have some semblance of freedom. They can take walks and enjoy being outdoors, as long as they comply with social distancing.
The second part of this story is a fascinating data-driven article that we're republishing with permission that answers the question "Why is Germany's fatality rate so low?"
For stories from other locations, be sure to visit our Coronavirus blog, as writers from around the world are sharing their personal thoughts. Our other latest blog post in this series is a personal account of the Coronavirus in Italy. We've also located a few places that will ship a face mask to you within a week or two.
Coronavirus in Germany - A Story from Allgäu
My name is Vanshika, and I live in the Allgäu. Like a lot of other people around the world, the town where I live has been affected by the Coronavirus. This is my side of the story.
The waves of the COVID-19 pandemic haven’t left a single person untouched. During this global crisis, I doubt there’s anyone around who cannot empathize with the other seven billion people on this planet. Our circumstances may differ, but our concerns are the same, as are our hesitations. Living in the Bavarian countryside, I have had my share of experiences and worries.
Within two kilometers
On the surface, not a lot has changed. People still go out, take strolls, and return to their homes when they’ve reached the end of their two-kilometer radius. We respect social distancing, even if we sneak in our greetings when walking past one another.
But, somehow, it’s still foreign. You begin to savor things when you know you’re lucky.
Some freedom to roam
When I speak with my friends in the UK, they tell me they haven’t left the houses in 13 days and counting. So, I can’t help but appreciate every breath of fresh air I’m privy to every time I leave the house.
Smelling the fresh water beside me, hearing the birds, and the ripples of the streams... Those are things I previously took for granted, even disliked at times. Now they’re the highlight of my day; it’s the first time I’ve really listened.
Seclusion leads to new hobbies
Day in, day out, still not much changes for me or pretty much anyone else who is staying at home. The days have melted into one prolonged state of suboptimal awareness. I’m only partially informed that today is Monday, even with online classes. Even then, it’s a welcome change because it’s an opportunity.
Floating through life, I’ve taken advantage of the abundance of time to learn to play the guitar. It’s a struggle, I have callouses, but I love it because it’s proof of my efforts.
At the same time, I’ve also reconnected with people I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. We're finding a sense of belonging in the minor experiences and pursuits we have in common. I also have regular catch-up sessions with my siblings. I haven’t laughed this much with them in a long time, and I live for it.
As a student planning to go to university later this year, I’m in an especially peculiar situation, because, for once, I'm not just worried about exams.
Moving forward after the Coronavirus in Germany
I know that it applies to everyone, but I can be certain I won’t be the same person a few months down the line, and that’s crucial. I’m grateful for the chance I’ve had to learn key skills in the most adverse of times. Values like discipline, hard work, and consistency have taken on new meanings, and I’m humbled.
News is sharing the difficulties that others are going through at this time. I feel as though I, like many others, our politicians included, are personally understanding the repercussions of a global pandemic. Like others, I feel a sense of solidarity.
Gratitude and hope
There are plenty of people out there who, despite the uncertainty, have gone out of their way to help others. The charities and initiatives supporting people through every day are every bit worthy of the praise they receive.
Going forth, these little actions of kindness are enough to convince me that we can make it through this together.
I believe in us.
Note: Please continue reading as we've received permission to repost an interesting article about how testing has impacted the fatality rate of the Coronavirus in Germany.
Coronavirus: Why is Germany's fatality rate so low?
Jeremy Rossman, University of KentGermany has received a great deal of attention for having a lower death rate for COVID-19 than most comparable European countries. A simple explanation for the low case-fatality rate in Germany is that the country has been testing more people, so they have more confirmed cases for the same number of fatalities.
In many countries, only high-risk patients and the most critically ill are being tested. This results in fairly accurate fatality numbers but dramatically underestimates case numbers, as most cases cause mild illness and would not be tested.
Germany’s robust and rapid testing programme was helped by the use of a distributed network of testing through individual hospitals, clinics and laboratories, instead of relying on tests from a single government resource, as was the case in countries such as the US and the UK. The federated German system allows for more regional autonomy, making it easier for local healthcare systems to coordinate the work of different laboratories.
Distributed testing is now slowly being implemented in many countries.
Consequences of increased testing
The low fatality rate in Germany is not just a matter of the number of tests, but also how the government has acted on the data. Germany’s robust testing programme is coupled with identifying and isolating infected patients. As the virus spreads most effectively from people at early stages of the disease with no or mild symptoms, early identification and isolation would have a disproportionately large impact on the spread of the disease.
Slowing the spread of the virus in Germany has also allowed for increased hospital readiness that helps to reduce fatalities. For example, the number of acute-care beds in Germany is 621 per 100,000 people, compared with Italy’s 275 beds per 100,000 and the UK’s 228 beds per 100,000.
The impact of early interventions and increased preparedness can be seen in the time from the first case to the first fatality of COVID-19. Germany had its first case of coronavirus on January 27, before Italy on January 31, but the first fatality was not recorded until March 9, significantly later than in Italy on Feburary 21. The increased critical care capacity is also probably playing a role in reducing fatalities in Germany.
A question of age?
It has been reported that only 20% of cases in Germany are in people over 60 years old (compared with up to 50% in other European countries, such as Spain).
We know that COVID-19 causes more severe illness and has a higher fatality rate in older people, so the percentage of people over 60 that are infected could dramatically influence the fatality rate. But the median age of the population in Germany is 45.7 years old with 21% of their population being over 65 years old, comparable with that seen in Italy (median age 47.3, 23% over 65 years old) and older than that of the UK (median age 40.5, 19% over 65 years old).
This suggests Germany’s low rate of infection in over 60s is more likely to do with rapid testing, isolation and physical-distancing measures than simply demographics.
In spite of Germany’s strengths around isolation, hospital preparation and so on, it still suffered from the same delayed response as many other countries. Having seen the spread of COVID-19 through China and then Italy, Germany did not enact a nationwide programme of physical distancing measures until March 22.
For comparison, Italy began lockdowns on March 8. This is probably part of the explanation for why Germany’s low number of fatalities has not been accompanied by a low number of cases or a low rate of transmission. Perhaps earlier implementation of distancing protocols would have also reduced the spread of COVID-19 in the country.
Lessons for the rest of the world
Overall, the German response has been a good example of how countries can combat the spread and severity of COVID-19. The core of the German response matches very well with recommendations from the World Health Organization: prepare, test (isolate and treat) and mitigate the spread of the virus.
Many countries are now focusing on the mitigation aspect, employing physical distancing measures to reduce transmission. But without widespread testing, countries won’t know who’s infected, they won’t be able to ensure their isolation, and they won’t be able to control the pandemic.
With many of us doing our part in lockdown and practising physical distancing, it is the responsibility of governments around the world to ensure that this time is effectively used. Containment will not be possible without widespread testing.