LATEST: Germany ramps up coronavirus tests to 500,000 a week

Germany has boosted its coronavirus test rate to 500,000 a week, a virologist said Thursday, adding that early detection has been key in keeping the country's death rate relatively low.

LATEST: Germany ramps up coronavirus tests to 500,000 a week
File photo shows laboratory testing for COVID-19 underway. Photo: DPA

Christian Drosten, a Berlin-based senior virologist, said that Germany was carrying out an “extremely high number” of coronavirus tests, which meant experts were aware of more cases, including milder ones.

Speaking at the launch of a government-backed new network for the treatment and research of COVID-19 which is being set up in Berlin, Drosten estimated that around 500,000 coronavirus tests were being carried out each week in Germany.

“The reason why Germany has so few deaths compared to the number of infected people can be explained by the fact that we carry out an extremely large number of laboratory diagnostic tests,” said Christian Drosten, who heads the Institute of Virology at Berlin's Charite University Hospital.

“Estimates from the last days show that we are carrying out half a million tests a week,” he added.

READ ALSO: 'The mortality rate is puzzling': Why does Germany have a lower coronavirus death rate

Drosten also highlighted Germany's dense network of laboratories spread across its territory as a factor contributing to early detection.

Meanwhile the research ministry said it would commit €150 million to improve communication between hospitals and laboratories about coronavirus patients' health data, hoping the information exchange could feed into development of a vaccine.

It comes as the total number of reported infections in Germany grew to more than 38,530 on Thursday morning, March 26th, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and Robert Koch Institute. The number of deaths grew to 213.

The actual number of COVID-19 cases is thought to be far higher. Depending on an individual state's policies, many other possible cases may not have been tested because they show only mild symptoms or have not been in contact with a known case.

At around 0.54 percent, Germany's death rate is far lower than the 7.3 percent in Spain where 4,089 deaths were recorded for 56,188 confirmed cases.

France has also recorded 1,331 fatalities of 25,233 confirmed infections – a death rate of 5.2 percent.

Besides the large-scale testing, experts in Germany also said that the virus has largely affected a younger, healthier section of the population compared to elsewhere.

At the same time, experts have repeatedly warned that in the country where almost a quarter of the population is over 60, the number of deaths could still skyrocket if people do not stick to measures to help halt contagion.

Lockdown measures are in place across Germany, preventing people from leaving their homes except for essential trips, while most shops, restaurants and bars are closed.

'The virus has no nationality'

It came as German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday called for European nations to show more solidarity as they face the growing pandemic.

In a video posted on social media, Steinmeier said: “We must look beyond the next border fence.

“The virus has no nationality, and suffering does not stop at borders.”

The President also praised German hospitals for their solidarity to other countries and treating Italian and French patients.

READ ALSO: What's the latest on coronavirus in Germany and what do I need to know?

Member comments

  1. So why does the number of tests given equate to a lower death rate? What happens after the test? If if is because they catch it earlier more often then what are they doing once it is detected? Is there a treatment these people get?

  2. Tell the source of this news?

    I always ask. Do you TheLocal authors even look for the comments of your paid users?

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For members


EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

Due to high Covid infection numbers throughout the summer, it’s now possible to get a sick note from a doctor over the phone again for some illnesses. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: The new rules around getting a sick note over the phone in Germany

What’s happened?

In spring 2020, German authorities changed the law so that people with a mild upper respiratory tract illness, such as the common cold, were able to get an incapacity to work certificate or AU-Bescheinigung by simply calling and speaking to their GP.

The rule was extended several times and finally reversed on June 1st this year due to falling infection figures. Since then people have had to go back to the practice – or do a video call if the doctor’s office has that system in place – to get a sick note.

Now, due to a decision by the Joint Federal Committee, the regulation has been reintroduced and patients can call their GP again for a sick note.

Can I get a sick note over the phone for any illness?

No. As before, the regulation only applies to patients suffering from a mild upper respiratory tract illness. Though Covid has not explicitly been named in the announcement, it seems that it is intended to be covered by the regulation.

If the doctor is convinced that the patient is unfit for work after a telephone consultation, then they can issue a sick note for up to seven days.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The changes around doctor’s notes in Germany you should know

If the symptoms persist after seven days, the certificate can be extended once more for another week.

Why now?

According to the Chairman of the G-BA, Josef Hecken, the regulation has been introduced now as a response to rising Covid numbers and in anticipation of the cold and flu season in the coming months: “We want to avoid full waiting rooms in doctors’ offices and the emergence of new infection chains,” he said.

The telephone sick leave rule is a simple, proven and uniform nationwide solution for that, he said. The rule is also necessary because video consultation hours are not yet available everywhere.

What else should I know?

The health insurer DAK is calling for telephone sick leave in the case of light respiratory diseases to be made possible on a permanent basis in Germany. DAK’s CEO Andreas Storm said that this should “not always be up for debate, because it has proven itself.” 

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about making a doctor’s appointment in Germany

The social association VdK also welcomed the reintroduction of the rule. The VdK’s President Verena Bentele said that the regulation would help to protect high-risk groups in particular from potential infections.

What are the rules to know about sick notes in Germany?

Germany has a strict system in place. If you are sick, you need to give your employer a Krankmeldung (notification of sickness) before the start of work on the first day (of your illness).

However, you also need to hand in a Krankschreibung (doctor’s note) on the fourth day of your illness. Some employments contracts, however, require you to submit a sick not earlier than the fourth day so check with your boss or HR on that point.