For weeks, virologists here have been asked a persistent question: Why, compared to other countries, are so few of the Germans who are diagnosed with the coronavirus dying?
In Italy, 9.5 percent of the people who have tested positive for the virus have succumbed to covid-19, according to data compiled at Johns Hopkins University. In France, the rate is 4.3 percent. But in Germany, it’s 0.4 percent.
The biggest reason for the difference, infectious disease experts say, is Germany’s work in the early days of its outbreak to track, test and contain infection clusters. That means Germany has a truer picture of the size of its outbreak than places that test only the obviously symptomatic, most seriously ill or highest-risk patients.
“At the beginning, when we had relatively few cases, when it came to finding them and isolating them, we did quite well in Germany,” said Reinhard Busse, head of the department of health care management at the Berlin University of Technology. “That’s the major reason.”
Other factors, such as the age of those infected and the timing of Germany’s outbreak, also play a role in the differing death rates. But testing widely has been key. Germany, with 31,150 cases at midday Tuesday, appeared to have a larger outbreak than France, with 20,149. But the higher death rate in France implies there were more undiagnosed cases there. France’s outbreak could be larger than Germany’s.
Germany has not carried out mass testing of the kind employed in countries such as South Korea. But initially, at least, the country’s health authorities tracked infection clusters meticulously. When an individual tested positive, they used contact tracing to find other people with whom they had been in touch and then tested and quarantined them, which broke infection chains. [Continue reading…]