As Germany’s coronavirus outbreak appears to peak at fewer than 1,500 deaths – why HAS it performed so much better than most of Europe?
- German officials recorded 92 deaths in one day, the fewest fatalities in a week
- Italy’s death toll at its ‘peak’ was 9,140 compared to Germany’s 1,434
- That’s despite both countries reporting over 6,000 cases on their worst days
- The UK, France, Sweden and Denmark all seem to either be nearing their peak
- Currently the UK’s daily death doll is doubling around every two to three days
Germany today saw a sharp drop in its daily death and case toll count, sparking hope that the unprecedented coronavirus lockdown is working.
Health officials recorded just 3,677 new cases – the lowest total since March 22 – and 92 deaths, the fewest single day of fatalities in a week.
But Germany, which has recorded fewer than 1,500 deaths, is not the only European country whose outbreak has appeared to have flattened.
Data collated by the World Health Organization shows Italy’s outbreak of the deadly virus is slowing down or at least stabilising.
But Italy’s cumulative death toll by the time it appeared to reach its ‘peak’ was more than six times that of Germany, at 9,140.
Spain, Belgium, Norway and Austria all also appear to have hit their peak cases and deaths in the past fortnight.
Despite the promising improvements, the possibility of a new record daily increase cannot be ruled out because the pandemic is not over.
Elsewhere in Europe, the UK, France, Sweden and Denmark all seem to either be within their peak, or nearing it.
Currently the UK’s daily death doll is doubling around every two to three days. But cases and deaths do appear to be growing at a slower rate.
How many cases European countries are recording per day: Some appear to be coming out the other side of their outbreak, including Italy, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands
Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92. Its dramatic drop in daily deaths comes nine days after its peak in cases on March 28, suggesting the worst of its outbreak has passed. Spain and Italy are also reporting lower deaths by day
Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92, just 24 hours after the country reported its highest daily death toll of 184.
New infections also fell for the fourth day running to 3,677, raising hopes that the coronavirus lockdown is working.
Its dramatic drop in daily deaths comes nine days after its peak in cases on March 28, suggesting the worst of its outbreak has passed.
Peak of cases: March 28, 6,294 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: April 5, 184 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: March 22, 6,557 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: March 28, 971 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: April 1, 9,222 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: April 3, 950 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: March 28, 1,172 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: April 1, 175 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: March 29, 1,850 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: April 1, 192 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: March 28, 425 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: April 3, 10 new deaths recorded
Peak of cases: March 27, 1,141 new cases recorded
Peak of deaths: March 21, 22 new deaths recorded
Data shows the death rate lags behind cases by around four to seven days, which is why for a period of time cases appear to be slowing while deaths continue to rise.
Italy’s outbreak shows a similar pattern – the highest jump in new cases was recorded on March 22. Eight days later, on April 5, its daily death toll was at an all-time high.
The country has recorded consistently lower figures every day for longer than a week – around 4,500 new cases and 700 new deaths – giving hope that it’s finally out of the dark.
Both countries had the same ballpark figure for new daily cases during its peak – 6,300 for Germany and 6,560 for Italy. But Germany was testing far more people.
Their total cases are also not far from each other, with Italy reporting 124,632 as of today, and Germany 95,391.
But the two nation’s mortality counts differ dramatically. On Italy’s worst day for recorded deaths, it already had a total of 9,136 deaths, compared to Germany’s 1,434.
Spain also had more than 10,000 total deaths on its bleakest day so far – on April 3, when it reported 950 deaths in 24 hours.
Italy continues to unwillingly take the lead for coronavirus deaths, with 15,362 altogether.
Figures suggest the UK’s peak is looming, with officials predicting it to be six to nine days away, possibly on Easter Sunday.
Last week, NHS England was announcing new daily death highs, reaching a pinnacle of 708 on Saturday.
For the past two days, it has dropped to 621 and 403. The statistics are a glimmer of hope as the increase in death numbers today is the lowest it has been since March 31, when it was 381.
However, yesterday cases soared by 5,903 – the highest yet. With the death toll lagging some days behind, it may be too early to say the brunt of the outbreak is over.
Yesterday, the UK’s cases soared by 5,903 – the highest yet. With the death toll lagging some days behind, it may be pre-empt to feel hopeful the peak of the outbreak is behind us
HAS GERMANY ESCAPED LIGHTLY?
Germany has appeared to escape the global pandemic lightly in comparison to its neighbouring countries.
Although its cases aren’t far behind Spain and Italy, its mortality rate is considerably lower – at around 1.6 per cent, when dividing reported cases by deaths.
Germany’s daily death toll today dropped to just 92, just 24 hours after the country reported its highest daily death toll of 184.
New infections also fell for the fourth day running to 3,677 amid hope that coronavirus lockdown is working.
But Dr Derek Gatherer, an infectious disease expert, said it was too early for Germany to be victorious over its figures.
He said: ‘Today is a Monday, and if there is less testing over the weekend, there are always lower numbers on a Monday, so we should watch Germany tomorrow to see if this applies there too.’
Here’s why Germany’s death toll may be lower:
This has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected as having the coronavirus.
Some 500,000 citizens are being tested a week, according to Professor Christian Drosten, the virologist in charge of the country’s response.
Germany is seemingly able to acquire tests from domestic manufacturers while Britain is having to import them.
Germany is home to a strong network of biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including Landt, which has made and helped distribute four million COVID-19 tests, Bloomberg reports.
It’s believed Germany will also lead the way with the highly sought-after antibody testing, which can see if a person has already had the virus and built immunity.
Such checks could potentially allow people to be issued with certificates saying they are safe to go back to work, allowing the economy to get started again.
Private labs nationwide have been free to offer tests. But in the UK, Public Health England have been reluctant to expand testing facilities outside its own 12 centralised labs.
Germany had already established testing by mid-February, epidemiology professor Nathan Grubaugh, at Yale School of Public Health, told Business Insider.
As of April 2, private labs in Germany had already helped the country test one million people for COVID-19.
The age of infected people
The average age of its patients is lower than in countries like Italy, which has a particularly old population, meaning they are less likely to die.
The majority – 80 per cent – of all people infected in Germany are younger than 60, official figures from Robert Koch Institute show.
There is speculation the first cluster of cases stemmed from ‘super spreaders’ who returned from skiing trips in Austria and Italy, who may have been fitter and younger.
The robust healthcare system
Hospitals in Germany have been better prepared, Wired reports.
The country had the most intensive care beds per person than any country in Europe.
A study in 2011 found it had 29.2 intensive care beds per 100,000 people – considerably more than the 12.5 per 100,000 in Italy, 9.7 in Spain or just 6.6 in the UK.
Officials say Germany’s hospitals were already in shape to cope with an epidemic, with enough intensive care beds and ventilators. Meanwhile, Italy’s hospitals have been overwhelmed and there are fears the UK’s health system will buckle under the pressure.
How the country reports deaths
Dr Gatherer said that every country reports its deaths differently, which may be behind the varying mortality rates.
‘It’s really difficult to know why different countries in Europe have different death totals,’ he said. ‘It may be something to do with the way that deaths are recorded, for instance a distinction might possibly be made between deaths with COVID-19 and deaths from COVID-19.’
France, Sweden and Denmark are in a similar position, having seen a leap in daily cases the past few days.
At such an early stage in the pandemic, it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions on how countries are coping in comparison to each other.
It’s also worth noting that the figures don’t adjust for a reporting delay, which is the time between a death occurring, and it being announced. Reporting-delay is not necessarily the same in each country.
But there is an evident link between a countries response to the pandemic, and the scale of its outbreak so far.
Germany has been praised for its handling of the unprecedented situation, and the UK government ridiculed for not following its lead.
Its low death rate – around 1.6 per cent – has been attributed for the most part due to its rigorous testing regime, tracing anyone who has had contact with a positive case.
Around half a million people are being tested per week. In comparison, the UK’s testing capacity is around 70,000 a week.
This is due to a number of reasons, including Germany being able to scale up its testing capacity domestically.
Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist and professor of molecular oncology, University of Warwick, noted that Germany’s testing isn’t provided by one central authority – like Public Health England – but by approximately 400 public health offices.
This allows for labs to be stretched out across the nation which act largely autonomously of central control. As of April 2, private labs had already tested an astonishing one million people, Business Insider reports.
Professor Young told MailOnline: ‘Robust surveillance (testing) to find, isolate, trace, and treat every case is what’s happened in Germany and South Korea.
‘German public health services have also helped with 400 public health offices run by municipal and rural district administrations throughout the Federal republic.
‘But also the fact that the Robert Koch Institute in Germany is supporting these public health offices and facilitated engagement with the German biotech industry to produce a test in mid-January and then rolled it out across the country.
‘Germany also has more virologists who were mobilised early and responded quickly to work together with industry to produce the diagnostic test.’
Official figures from Robert Koch Institute shows the majority of infected people in Germany are under the age of 60, which may explain why less people are dying.
Italy has a particularly old population, which experts believe explains its higher mortality rate – 12 per cent when dividing reported cases by deaths.
Dr Derek Gatherer, an infectious disease expert, said it was too early for Germany to be victorious over its figures.
He said: ‘Today is a Monday, and if there is less testing over the weekend, there are always lower numbers on a Monday, so we should watch Germany tomorrow to see if this applies there too.
‘I think we’ll probably be revising these figures for a while to come. However, a consistent drop off in number of deaths, however they are recorded, in any country, will be one of the signals that lockdown could be eased.’
Figures suggest Belgium and the Netherlands have come out the other side, reporting a total of 1,283 and 1,651 deaths respectively.
At their peak, on April 1, they each reported between 150-200 deaths per day, fairly unscathed compared to their European neighbours.
Even further behind are Austria and Norway, who reported 22 and 10 deaths respectively on their worst days. They have 186 and 50 total deaths respectively.
Both countries imposed lockdowns when the number of cases were under 3,000.
In comparison, Prime Minister Boris Johnson shut Britain down on March 24, when there were already 6,650 cases and 335 deaths.
Their testing capacity is also unparallelled in Europe – authorities test between 12,000 and 19,000 per million inhabitants every day.
The UK’s testing regime, reaching a fraction of people in hospital, has been criticised heavily because it has failed to paint an accurate picture of how many people are infected.
Imperial College London mapped how each country responded to the pandemic
HOW DO EACH COUNTRY’S MEASURES COMPARE?
Lockdown imposed: March 24
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,650/335
Testing: 2,895 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 22
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 21,463/67
Testing: 11,046 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 11
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 10,149/631
Testing: 10,896 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 14
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 4,231/120
Testing: 7,596 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 16
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/1
Testing: 12,502 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 17
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 6,573/148
Testing: 3,346 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 18
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 1,486/14
Testing: 1,594 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 18
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 977/4
Testing: 8,306 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 20
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 3,863/33
Testing: 17,904 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 24
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 2,371/8
Testing: 19,000 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: March 15
Cases and deaths on lockdown: 959/12
Testing: 4,328 per 1million
Lockdown imposed: Hasn’t imposed a lockdown
Cases and deaths currently: 6,443/373
Testing: 4,306 per 1million
How Europe is planning to lift the lockdown: Austria will open small shops next week, Denmark wants ‘staggered’ return to work and Germany could re-open schools if infection rate stays low
By Tim Stickings
As Britain and America start to draw up plans for life after the lockdown, they may look for inspiration from European countries where the coronavirus crisis has already showed signs of peaking.
Austria today became the first country to set out detailed plans for ending the standstill, with smaller shops re-opening on April 14 and larger ones on May 1.
Denmark also plans to start lifting restrictions after Easter, but wants people to ‘work in a more staggered way’ to avoid crowding into trains and buses.
Meanwhile Germany is willing to re-open schools on a regional basis and allow a limited number of people into restaurants if the infection rate stays sufficiently low.
In Italy, which has been under lockdown longer than any other European country, officials are talking about a ‘phase two’ where society learns to ‘live with the virus’ by wearing masks and carrying out more tests.
Italy and Germany are among the countries looking at smartphone tracking, which could allow them to jump on new outbreaks without sending everyone back inside.
All of those countries, along with Spain, have seen signs of improvement in their recent figures which offer hope that the crisis is past its peak. That moment is still to come for Britain and America, which are bracing for one of their bleakest weeks.
However, health officials across Europe warn that life cannot go back ‘from 0 to 100’ immediately and many lockdown measures will remain in place for several more weeks at least.
Spain plans more tests and a partial return to work
135,032 confirmed cases, 13,055 deaths
Spain has been in lockdown since March 14 as it battles one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with the total caseload now higher than in Italy.
However, the rate of new infections has fallen to a record low, offering hope that the measures are working.
Prime minister Pedro Sanchez has said that some economic restrictions could be lifted after Easter, allowing some people in non-essential jobs to return to work.
However, shops, bars and restaurants will remain closed, and many lockdown measures are likely to last beyond their current deadline of April 26.
Nadia Calvino, the economy minister in Sanchez’s government, told El Pais that ministers have begun discussing a way out of the lockdown.
‘We will have to establish measures and conditions that minimise the risk of having an extended contagion, which will allow us to keep the virus at bay. It cannot be a 0 to 100 process in one day,’ she said.
Calvino declined to answer whether workers would have to return to their jobs wearing masks and gloves.
The government says one million testing kits were due to arrive in Spain on Sunday and Monday, and would act as ‘rapid screening’ in places such as hospitals and nursing homes.
Spain’s daily infection count has fallen sharply from its peak, and today’s rise of 3.3 per cent is the smallest yet
This chart shows the daily number of deaths in Spain, which has similarly shown signs of coming down from a peak recently
Austria will re-open shops but keep public gatherings banned
12,008 cases, 220 deaths
Small shops such as these in a Viennese market are set to re-open next week in Austria
Austria’s chancellor Sebastian Kurz today became the first European leader to provide specific dates for the end of lockdown measures.
Kurz said the aim was to let smaller shops re-open as soon as April 14, with larger ones and shopping malls opening on May 1 if all goes well.
‘The aim is that from April 14… smaller shops up to a size of 400 square metres, as well as hardware and garden stores can open again, under strict security conditions of course,’ Kurz said at a press conference.
Customers will be required to wear masks when shops re-open, extending a requirement which already applies to supermarkets. Masks will also be compulsory on public transport.
Hotels and restaurants could start to re-open in mid-May, with a decision later this month. Schools will remain closed until mid-May and public events will remain banned until the end of June, Kurz said.
Austria’s health ministry says the rate of new infections has fallen significantly, and Kurz wants to ‘gradually and cautiously return to normality after Easter’ as long as ‘we all remain disciplined during Easter week’.
If the numbers get worse again, the government ‘always has the possibility to hit the emergency brake’ and re-introduce restrictions, he said.
Denmark wants ‘staggered’ return to work as restrictions ease after Easter
4,647 cases, 179 deaths
Denmark wants to avoid overcrowding on trains such as the Copenhagen metro service (pictured)
Denmark has been in lockdown since March 11, but wants to start lifting the measures after Easter if there is no surge in new cases.
In an interview with DK last night, prime minister Mette Frederiksen said the government was hoping for a ‘gradual, controlled and quiet reopening of Denmark’.
She suggested that people could go to work ‘in a more staggered way’ in order to avoid excessive crowds on public transport.
The PM did not provide details of what a ‘staggered’ return to work might look like.
However, she warned that ‘we will not return to Denmark as it was’ when the first restrictions are lifted.
‘We are not going to be able to squeeze up close together in trains, buses and subways in the way we have become accustomed to,’ she said.
‘Or stand very close together with a whole lot of other people and have a good party together.’
Italy plans to ‘live with the virus’ using more masks and dedicated hospitals
128,948 confirmed cases, 15,887 deaths
Italy is openly talking about a ‘phase two’ in which society will have to ‘create the conditions to live with the virus’ until a vaccine is developed.
Health minister Roberto Speranza says more testing and a beefed-up local health system would be necessary to allow an easing of the lockdown.
He said social distancing would have to remain in place, with more widespread use of personal protective equipment such as face masks.
Testing and ‘contact tracing’ would be extended, including with the use of smartphone apps, in order to contain new outbreaks.
A network of hospitals would also be set up which are specifically dedicated to virus patients, after doctors on existing wards described having to make life-or-death decisions over access to intensive care.
‘There are difficult months ahead. Our task is to create the conditions to live with the virus,’ at least until a vaccine is developed, the health minister told La Repubblica newspaper.
The national lockdown, strictly limiting people’s movements and freezing all non-essential economic activity, will officially last until at least April 13 but it is widely expected to be extended.
Italy’s daily infection count reached a peak of 6,557 on March 21, but has not been above 5,000 in recent days
Italy recorded 969 deaths in one day on March 27, but the figure has fallen since then, as shown on this graph
Germany plans to open schools, shops and restaurants if infection rate stays low
95,391 cases, 1,434 deaths
Germany has set out plans to lift restrictions as long as the infection rate remains below 1. That means each patient is infecting less than one other person on average.
If that is achieved, schools could be re-opened on a regional basis, shops could open their doors and restaurants could open with a limit on the number of people in closed rooms.
The plans were set out in an interior ministry document which also says that masks may become compulsory in any public building or on trains and buses.
The ministry announced plans today to put all arriving travellers in quarantine for 14 days, though not including health workers who live nearby.
Germany is also among the countries to suggest that antibody tests could signal a way out of the lockdown, by allowing people with immunity to leave home.
These so-called ‘immunity passports’ could allow people to return to work and travel around Germany without fear that they will spread the virus.
Christian Drosten, the head of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, says the tests could also ease the supply of medical equipment, because doctors who are immune would need less protective gear. ‘These tests are the only practical way to get things back to normal,’ he told an NDR podcast recently.
Ministers are also looking to South Korea as a model for how to use smartphone tracking, despite the tough privacy laws in Germany where surveillance is a sensitive subject.
One German institute is developing an app that would enable the proximity and duration of contact between people to be saved for two weeks on phones anonymously and without the use of location data.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will recommend the use of tracking apps if tests on them prove successful.
Germany’s biggest jump in cases so far was the 6,294 which were announced on March 28, but today’s figure is only 3,677
Germany’s daily death toll fell sharply to 92 today after previously showing signs of peaking by flattening around 140 a day
France says lockdown cannot happen ‘in one go and for everyone’
70,478 cases, 8,078 deaths
France appears less close to ending the lockdown, with the figures improving less clearly than in Italy or Spain.
Deputy interior minister Laurent Nunez has warned that ‘the end of confinement is not yet on the cards, a deadline has not been set’.
‘I remind you of the rule… one goes out only when it is strictly necessary,’ he said.
Questioned about the subject last week, prime minister Edouard Philippe warned that the lockdown could not be lifted in one stroke.
‘It is likely that we are not heading towards a general deconfinement in one go and for everyone,’ he told parliament by video link.
Philippe said the government is ‘fighting hour by hour’ to ward off shortages of essential drugs used to keep patients alive in intensive care.
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