COVID-19 Day 13: Why is Germany’s Death Rate so Low? Because they’re German.



Why is Germany’s COVID-19 death rate so much lower than the rest of Europe? A German might say, “It’s because we practice social distancing––normally.”

The short answer is, Germany was able to test and identify more infected individuals. An accurate accounting of infection numbers determines how accurately you can calculate mortality rate. Germany reports a mortality rate of 0.5%; much lower than China’s 3.6%, and orders of magnitude lower than Italy’s 9%.

In early March, the WHO warned the world that COVID-19’s mortality rate was an alarming 3.6%. That number was based on [mis]information given by Chinese authorities. By testing fewer patients and underreporting infection numbers, the Chinese government could claim “success” but this distorted the true mortality rate of the virus.

In Italy, the outbreak overwhelmed their hospitals and medical systems. Italy’s officials chose to focus their limited resources on testing only the most sever cases admitted to hospital; these patients were also the most likely to die. For totally different reasons than China, Italy’s restricted testing produced an even more distorted mortality rate of 9%!

As the pandemic spread to the rest of the world, a more accurate picture of the virus’ mortality rate has since emerged. In Germany and South Korea, two nations that were quick to test a wider swath of their population, their reported mortality rates are closer to 0.5%. A number much less alarming than 3.6% but still 5 times higher than the seasonal flu (0.1%).

In the US, test kit production is still ramping up. Due to a combination of FDA red tape, the Chinese Government being unwilling to provide samples of the virus, and a lack of political interest, there was very little testing done when President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13. In comparison, South Korea now produces 100,000 kits per day and has agreed to supply kits to the US.

In Germany and South Korea, widespread testing allowed their authorities to quickly quarantine infected individuals and drastically slow the spread of contagion. Knowing where the infected are helps authorities focus limited resources such as respirators and N95 masks. And in that way, testing does save lives.

Not every country can enact draconian control on their population like in China. Not every country has the homogeneity of race and culture as South Korea. Not every country has the stereotypical orderliness and efficiency of Germany. Strategies and solutions that work for one nation may not be available or even possible in others.

Access to health care, average age, average health, access to transportation, population density, cultural norms, law-and-order, and politics, also play major roles in differentiating each countries total number of deaths. Each nation’s response to COVID-19 has been different. And so will their outcomes.


A fiasco in the making? As the coronavirus pandemic takes hold, we are making decisions without reliable data

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