Germany’s low fatality rate puzzles health officials

By Karl Sexton

Frankfurt, Germany, Mar 25 (efe-epa).- Early testing and a lower average age of people who have been infected with the coronavirus are two of the factors that might explain why the death toll in Germany has remained relatively low compared to other countries like Spain or Italy, German health officials said on Wednesday.

According to John Hopkins University, 172 people have died in Germany, which has registered over 34,000 cases, suggesting a fatality rate of under 1 percent.

“We don’t exactly know why we have low death rates compared to other countries in Germany,” the president of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, said at a press conference. “But to put it very clearly: this is not a case of under-reporting.”

Wieler said that, in Germany, the pathogen was discovered early, and tests were carried out from the start of the outbreak, even on people who only had mild symptoms.

The head of Germany’s federal center for disease control added that, so far, older segments of the population had largely avoided becoming infected, with most cases of the coronavirus being found in younger, healthier people.

The average age of people who have been infected with the coronavirus in Germany is 54 years, while the average age of those who have died is 81.

But Wieler still sent an explicit warning to younger Germans, urging them to take the disease and the measures being imposed to slow its spread seriously.

“Younger and healthy people can also get very seriously ill from Covid-19 and there are also younger and healthy people who die from Covid-19,” the RKI president said.

In Germany, according to the latest RKI figures, there have been 149 deaths out of 31,554 confirmed cases, which represents an increase of 4,118 new infections over the past 24 hours.

Despite the relatively positive outlook, particularly compared to Italy or Spain, which have both registered more deaths from the Covid-19 disease than China where the epidemic originated, Wieler warned that “we are at the beginning of the epidemic” in Germany.

“It is still completely open how the epidemic will develop and, of course, the number of deaths is also increasing in Germany,” he said.

The figures published by the RKI, a federal body, are generated through reports made by Germany’s regional health authorities, which, in turn, receive data from the municipal health offices.

That procedure means the RKI’s data lags behind other statistics, such as those provided by Johns Hopkins University in the United States for the whole world, which say there have been 172 deaths out of 34,009 cases in Germany.

Wieler said that although the figures of other institutions are not false, these are merely projections, while those of the RKI are the official verified data for Germany.

Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, on Wednesday was expected to approve a massive and unprecedented financial aid package of 156 billion euro ($166.5 bn) presented earlier this week by the government to offset the socio-economic damage caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The stimulus package, the largest in the country since the Second World War, will ease the burden on hospitals and clinics and supply financial aid to save jobs and companies that have been affected by the pandemic. EFE-EPA


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