Scientists are struggling to understand why the death rate from the coronavirus is so much lower in Germany than other countries. Germany has seen just 27 deaths from the virus so far despite recording 10,082 infections — more than anywhere except China, Italy, Iran and Spain.
That represents a fatality rate of just 0.2 per cent, compared to 7.9 per cent in Italy — raising hopes Germany might be doing something right that other countries can follow.
The disparity has even led to allegations of a German cover-up by the Italian far-Right. But experts have cautioned that Germany may simply be at an earlier stage of the pandemic, and that death rates here may soon catch up.
But they also point to other factors that may be helping keep the German death rate down.
“Germany has had a very aggressive testing process,” Dr Mike Ryan, health emergencies director at the World Health Organisation (WHO) said. “So the number of tests maybe detecting more mild cases.
“From the beginning, we have very systematically called upon our doctors to test people,” Prof Lothar Wieler of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute said.
“We can provide testing to a high degree so that we can easily look into the beginnings of the epidemic.”
“Test, test, test” has become the WHO’s mantra in fighting the coronavirus, and experts say Germany’s vigorous testing programme may be doing more than just keeping the death rate down by documenting more cases.
“Italy has a much older population. And in many ways Italy is the poster child for living longer lives, but unfortunately in this case having an older population means the fatality rate may appear higher,” Dr Ryan said.
Official figures show that rates of infection among the most vulnerable age group, those aged 60 and above, are much lower in Germany than elsewhere.
That may just be a case of luck, but it may be that by identifying cases early, Germany has been able to track chains of infection and prevent the virus reaching the most vulnerable.