Ross Clark Ross Clark

Why is the coronavirus mortality rate so much lower in Germany?

Temperature checks on the German-Polish border (Credit: Getty)

Is there something about being Germany which protects the body against coronavirus Covid-19? Probably not, I would guess. In which case why do the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute show that the country has a case fatality rate (CFR) of 0.3 per cent, while the World Health Organisation (WHO) figures from Italy seem to show a CFR of 9 per cent? To say there is a vast gulf between those figures is an understatement. If nine per cent of people who catch Covid-19 are going to die from it we are facing a calamity beyond parallel in the modern world. If only 0.3 per cent of people who catch it die from it, this pandemic may yet turn out to be no worse than seasonal flu, which as I have explained here before is estimated by the US Centers for Disease Control to kill between 291,000 and 646,000 people a year without the world really noticing. According to John Hopkins University, which is collating fatalities data, 15,308 have died to date.

So which is closer to the real situation, Italy’s experience or Germany’s? Various theories have been put forward for Germany’s low death rate: for example that many of those who have tested positive for Covid-19 are young people who had returned from skiing holidays in Italy. The age profile for those who have tested positive in Germany is certainly much lower than in Italy: a median of 46-years-old as opposed to 63 in Italy. Some have expressed the fear that young German skiers will slowly infect their parents and grandparents’ generation, and that the death rate will steadily rise as the disease works its way through more vulnerable elderly people.

The main difference between Germany and Italy lies in those countries’ respective attitudes towards testing

Germany is almost certainly behind Italy in this epidemic.

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