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Why Germany Has a Much Lower Death Rate Than Other Countries and What We Can Learn From Their Efforts

As coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, we must look for any means to save lives. Germany has proven to be an anomaly in Europe, and perhaps an example for the rest of the world. Despite having the 5th most cases (34,009) worldwide, the country has a remarkably low death rate of 0.5% with 172 deaths. When compared to death rates in nearby Italy (9.9%) and Spain (7.2%), it’s clear Germany is doing something differently to stop people from dying. And the thought that there still may be time for the U.S., whose current death rate is 1.1%, to adopt some of Germany’s practices to lower our death rate arises.

What has Germany done differently?

According to an article published in Bloomberg, COVID-19 hasn’t hit the older population in Germany as hard as it has in other countries. Since the virus entered the country, authorities have tested, tracked, and contained the virus more aggressively—even patients with mild symptoms get tested—than other countries. By using contact tracing, health authorities have been able to quickly locate, test, and, if needed, quarantine individuals who have been in contact with an infected person. This effort has broken infection chains that could have potentially reached older populations.

In addition to aggressive testing, Germany banned mass events and ordered social distancing as soon as cases began to grow exponentially. Gatherings outside of the home have been restricted to only 2 people. In an article published by the Washington Post, Karl Lauterback, an epidemiologist and member of the German parliament, said, “I think with all things considered, Germany will do reasonably well in the first round of a long fight.”

Similarities between Germany and South Korea

It has been noted that the outbreak in Germany started when young people came home from vacationing in nearby Italy and Austria. While this certainly helped decrease the rate of infected individuals in the older population, aggressive testing and early bans and social distancing orders have decreased the number of older individuals who have been exposed to the virus. A similar example was seen in South Korea where early testing and similar bans and orders lowered the death rate by keeping the virus away from the older population as much as possible. While there is still a long way to go before the pandemic is over in both countries, they’ve taken measures that we can learn from and implement as the pandemic is in its early stages here in the U.S.

 What can we learn from Germany?

More so than anything, we must do everything we can to stop the spread of the virus to people who are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, whom the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines as “older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions.” Staying away from higher-risk people is of the utmost importance.

In regards to testing for COVID-19, the CDC recommends that people who have symptoms and want to get tested call their state or local health department or a medical provider. COVID-19 droplet precautions should be taken to protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19.  To protect yourself, the CDC recommends:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds after you’ve been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Using hand sanitizer with 60% alcohol if soap and water aren’t available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Social distance yourself from others (6 feet or more)

To protect others, the CDC recommends:

  • Staying at home if you’re sick
  • Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Throwing away used tissues
  • Wearing a face mask if you’re sick
  • Thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched or dirty surfaces

Doing your part can help you and others avoid becoming infected.

Moving Forward

 Germany has a much lower COVID-19 death rate than countries with close to or greater than the same amount of COVID-19 cases. Their early testing methods, bans, and social distancing orders seem to be the reasons why. As the virus continues to spread and unknowns continue to present, we all must do our part—especially when it comes to stopping the spread of the virus to high-risk individuals. It could be a matter of life and death.


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