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Germany does it right : extensive tests keep death rates in check

Labanyaprova Bandyopadhyay

10 April 2020

The beginning of the year 2020 was full of events. The days in early January were cold and grey as usual, but Ma and I were excited. We were planning to go to Kolkata after more than three years. We booked our tickets in mid-January.
During that time, I also heard about the Virus Covid-19 for the first time. I read an article in a German newspaper about the spread of the virus in a province called Wuhan in China. I also remember, that one spokesman from the UN mentioned in a press conference that it is still not a pandemic and that Europe should not worry.
In media it was not quite clear where this virus came from. I think it was mentioned early that it could have spread from bats and from a market in the city.
We could book our flight successfully and reached Kolkata on the 13th of February. During our stay in the city I was born, I did not follow the news as often as I do when I am in Bonn, but I noticed that many people were wearing masks in the airports and on the long flights. After landing in Germany on the 4th of March, the media informed us about the virus outbreak in Italy. They reported about the many deaths and infections of Italy’s citizens. We could feel the worries of people living here. Life went on as before, although some people started getting aware of the situation.

On the 13th of March, students got the information that it is their last school day until the situation got better and on the 14th of March, I went grocery shopping at a nearby supermarket. There, I saw that the situation is getting more and more serious. Normally, you would not find any empty aisles, as the supermarkets are filled with the necessary products. I realized while shopping that there was no milk, flour, disinfectants or toilet paper to buy. I understood that the next couple of weeks will be different.

News channels raised awareness about the spread of the virus within Germany. My university also sent an E-Mail about the delayed start of next semester. Normally, the semester starts on the 2nd of April, but we got the information that it will be delayed by 18 days. A few days later, our chancellor Angela Merkel spoke publicly to the inhabitants of Germany on the news. She appealed to everyone to maintain social distancing, protect the older generation and not to panic. She also reaffirmed that there are enough products and people do not need to buy more than they should. We call this behaviour “Hamsterkäufe”. The most important thing was that she asked families to keep in touch with each other by writing a letter or calling the grandparents more often. Two days later, Merkel was suspected to be infected. Her doctor was tested positive. She decided to self-isolate herself and work from home. This particular news made the citizens even more cautious about this situation.

The government decided to publish new laws by the end of March. People are not allowed to meet in a group of 3 or more except if they live together. The term, which is used is called “Konkaktverbot”, which one could translate as restraining order. If one should not follow these new laws, they have to pay around 200 euros for each restriction they broke. Slowly, all the shops started closing. The only shops open now are supermarkets, gas stations and drugstores. It was a sudden change but everyone is trying their best to maintain these rules. Many people started working from home, began new hobbies and maintained enough distance while shopping for groceries. Children were inspired to draw a rainbow on a piece of paper and hang it on their window, so that other children , who are going for a walk with their parents could see that they are not the only one who has to follow these new rules and stay at home most of the time. On Facebook, people offered their help for elder generations to shop for them during this situation. It is a relief to see the support, help and understanding of everyone.

Ma and I maintain the routine to watch the news every evening after a match of “ludo”, where she usually wins. If you turn on the news channel in the evening, the main topic is obviously the corona crisis. The current issue of Germany are the old-age homes. Doctors, workers and politicians worry about the spread of Covid-19 among the elderly. In our state “Nordrhein-Westfalen”, it was decided to do a test on every patient who is being transferred from a hospital to an old-age home. If the result is negative, the patient can proceed to be transferred but if it is tested positive, they have to stay at the hospital until they are healthy again.

Until today, the 10th of April, the number of infected people are 118,235 and 2.536 people died from Covid-19. Compared to other European countries, the death rate is lower. The main reason for the low death rate could be that until the end of March, nearly 920.000 people were tested. Also, the German hospitals had a higher amount of intensive beds before the outbreak of the pandemic. Another reason could be the trust of the citizens in the government. From the day, Merkel spoke to the citizen, the rules were maintained by nearly everyone.

I am not sure how Germany could remain as patient during this outbreak but I assume it is because of the knowledge and experience they have. They do not worry easily and like to think pragmatic. They check facts before spreading their knowledge and do not believe in conspiracies. Staying sane and positive during such a crisis is difficult but when you realize that the people surrounding you are not losing their mind, it is easier to feel calmer.

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