What we know about the victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany

More than 600 people have died in Germany after contracting coronavirus, and experts believe the number of deaths will continue to go up. Here's what we know so far, and the latest on the situation in Germany.

What we know about the victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Germany
German Red Cross employees wearing protective suits in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Experts are cautiously optimistic that coronavirus measures in Germany are working. However, they’ve warned the pandemic will continue “for weeks and months” and that the death rate will rise.

That was the message form Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s public health organisation the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday as he gave an update on the current situation in Germany.

“The pandemic is continuing and will carry on for weeks and months,” said Wieler during a press conference in Berlin.

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

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were more than 67,000 cases in Germany and 687 deaths – an increase of 70 deaths compared to the previous day – according to figures compiled by the Johns Hopkins University.

They differ slightly from RKI figures which only take into account electronically transmitted figures from Germany's states and are updated once a day.

Wieler said the public will have to stick to Germany's social distancing measures to stem the spread of the outbreak, as well as protect vulnerable people and relieve the burden on the healthcare system.

However, the public health chief said he was optimistic that coronavirus restrictions would be effective, saying he expected “tangible figures” on the impact of the measures to be available by Easter. 

READ ALSO: Germany bans gatherings of more than two to control coronavirus spread

He urged for people to understand the risks of coronavirus. It came after a study showed only 41 percent of Germans said they believed COVID-19 is dangerous. 

“I would like to ask everyone to take this disease seriously,” he said.

At the moment the mortality rate in Germany is 0.8 percent. However, as The Local has been reporting, this will likely rise as more older people contract coronavirus.

“Unfortunately, we now also have cases in nursing and old people's homes,” said Wieler. “We must unfortunately assume that the death rate will increase with it.”

He said last week around 350,000 people were tested and that was as many as possible at the moment.

What do we know about Germany's coronavirus patients?

The RKI has analysed clinical information on approximately 41,000 patients. The results found the average age of infected coronavirus patients is 47-years-old.

A total of 52 percent of them were male, 48 percent female. The most frequent symptoms were cough (43 percent) and fever (41 percent). Many cases were mild.

Lothar Wieler, head of the RKI, in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

What about those who've died?

According to the evaluation of clinical data, the average age of those who've died in Germany is 80-years-old.

A total of 506 of 583 people who've died (87 percent) were 70-years-old or older. The youngest person to die so far was 28-years-old and had underlying conditions, said Wieler.

READ ALSO: Why is the coronavirus mortality rate in Germany rising?

Here's a breakdown of the ages of the people who've died after contracting coronavirus in Germany:

  • 31 were younger than 60-years-old – 26 were men and five women
  • 44 were between 60 and 69-years-old – 32 of them were men and 12 women
  • 130 were between 70 and 79-years-old – of which 102 were men and 28 women
  • 305 were between 80 and 89-years-old – of which 185 were men and 120 women
  • 71 were 90-years-old or older – of which 38 were men and 33 women

As we reported on Monday, the oldest deceased patient so far was 99-years-old and lived in a nursing home in Würzburg.

But the disease has also led to the death of younger patients in their 40s and 50s, such as a 42-year-old man in Berlin who suffered from a lung disease and the partner of former Berlin mayor Klaus Wolwereit, who died at the age of 54.

Face mask debate

When it comes to compulsory face masks in supermarkets, like those introduced in Austria and the German city of Jena, Wieler said he believed there was no need to introduce them Germany-wide.

For people with coronavirus, wearing a protective mask over the nose and mouth is certainly “sensible” to protect other people from infection, said Wieler.

However, face masks can retain droplets when coughing and sneezing which could transmit the disease.

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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.