Germany and coronavirus: why the country's death rate is so low despite a high number of cases

Germany has reported 1,1111 deaths caused by coronavirus despite more than 85,063 confirmed infections

This means that Germany has a coronavirus mortality rate of just 1.5 per cent - one of the lowest figures in the entire world.

Compare that to Italy, where the death rate from the disease is 11 per cent, and it raises questions about how Germany has been so successful at keeping the death rate down.

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Here are some of the factors that have kept Germany’s mortality rate relatively low.

Angela Merkel has been at the head of Germany's fight against Coronavirus.
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How does Germany calculate its death rate?

Like other countries, Germany works out its death rate by dividing the number of people who have died of the disease, by the number of confirmed cases.

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Who does Germany test?

In the early stages of the disease, the German government carried out very high numbers of tests, and worked efficiently to trace people who had been in contact with infected patients.

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The country continues to test people at a higher rate than other European nations, like Spain and the UK.

This can lead to a dramatic difference in the death rates between countries that test lots of people, and countries that only test seriously ill people.

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How can testing impact mortality rates?

Countries like the UK currently only test people who have symptoms of the disease that require medical assistance.

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This means that all the people in the UK who are confirmed to have Covid-19 are quite seriously ill, and have a higher chance of dying from it.

But in Germany, where many more people are being tested - even if they only have mild symptoms - the total number of confirmed cases also includes young and healthy people, who are not likely to die from coronavirus.

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So in the UK, a higher number of people who are confirmed to have the disease are likely to die, than in Germany. Partly because of this, the UK’s coronavirus mortality rate stands at 4.8 per cent.

Can testing prevent the spread of coronavirus?

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By testing so many people, including those who came into contact with coronavirus patients, Germany seems to have been able to identify cases more quickly than other countries, and isolate people who have been infected.

This has helped stop the disease from spreading through communities as effectively, and has shielded vulnerable people from infection.

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What about age?

Although the German population has one of the highest median ages in Europe, the median age of German people who have caught coronavirus is much lower than in other countries.

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Whereas in Italy the median age of infected people is 63, and in the UK it is around 64, in Germany it is just 46 - meaning they are less likely to develop life-threatening symptoms from the virus.

Will the mortality rate change?

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In an interview with Wired, Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said death rates could change in the coming weeks.

“We can probably expect Germany’s mortality to slowly increase as the outbreak spreads through more vulnerable populations,” he said, “and we can probably expect the Italian mortality rates to come down a bit.”

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The structure of the country’s health service may also impact how well it can cope with rising cases. “The German health service has a lot of spare capacity – more so than the UK or Italy,” Head told Wired.

“Their health services have not yet been overwhelmed by it.”