Coronavirus: What can we learn from the low death toll German anomaly?

Germany has a high rate of Covid-19 infections but an exceedingly low death rate when compared to its neighbours

Germany has reported 53 deaths as a result of Covid-19, a low death toll when compared to its neighbouring countries
Germany has reported 53 deaths as a result of Covid-19, a low death toll when compared to its neighbouring countries

Germany is in the top five countries for most coronavirus infections worldwide but has seen very few deaths when compared to other nations with lower cases of infection.

It's not that Germany has been particularly effective in controlling the spread because it is currently dealing with 18,523 active cases, surpassed only by Italy and Spain. This despite the nationwide closure of schools, factories, bars and other establishments.

But Germany has reported just 53 deaths to Italy's 4,032, Spain's 1,401, and France's 372. South Korea, with 10,000 fewer cases than in Germany, has reported more deaths as well.

The United Kingdom and the United States both report higher fatality rates too.

Medical experts warn against drawing premature conclusions on the German anomaly but the question must be asked: why has Germany failed to flatten the curve but succeeded in keeping mortality at a minimum? 

The answer, experts say, mostly lies in the fact that the age profile of those infected has been younger than in other countries. It's proven that younger patients, with a smaller medical history, have a better chance at survival than older ones. 

Infections in Germany have mostly come in from holidaymakers returning from skiing resorts and other similar excursions.

But Germany is also conducting a record-breaking amount of tests: German laboratories are conducting approximately 160,000 tests per week, higher than the highly-praised South Korean 15,000 tests a day, hailed by virologists as a kind of benchmark. 

"This is about capacity. The capacity in Germany is very, very significant. We can conduct more than 160,000 tests per week, and that can be increased further," Professor Lothar Wieler told journalists.

Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, said that this has allowed Germany to make calculated decisions as to who will be secured a hospital bed for medical treatment and who will be kept in isolation for recovery.

Germany's high testing rate means that the country is likely to have less undetected cases of Covid-19 and that local transmissions are likely contained in observable clusters. 

In Malta, the rate of infection has, so far, been lower than in other neighboring countries and has reported just one case that developed medical complications but the number of suspected cases may be high, especially due to a number of individuals who breached the quarantine order over the past weeks.

Experts warn that the picture in Germany is likely to change in the weeks and months ahead as the virus has not reached its peak.

But while Germany conducts its 160,000 tests, hospitals in the country expand its intensive care capacity and prepares itself for the worst as the government purchases medical equipment and moves medical staff across different regions.

Before the nation is overcome, the government said that it had ordered 10,000 life-saving ventilators from a German manufacturer and is on its way to converting various areas, including trade fair grounds in Berlin, into a 1,000-bed hospital for future patients. 

Germany is also currently preparing for a long-term operation to mobilise its military reservists.