According to some medical experts, the second wave of coronavirus is already here in Germany.
The number of new infections are not at the levels they were in March or April. But if cases continue to rise, is Germany well enough equipped in medical supplies, personal, and knowledge?
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“German states and cities are now much better prepared following the first infections,” said Gerd Landsberg, director of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities.
Not only are Germany’s test capacities being continually built up, he said, but more protective equipment is available than at the beginning of the crisis.
We take a look at how Germany is preparing for more cases.
Protective equipment: Daily protection such as masks were in short supply at the beginning of the crisis, yet now cities and states have stocked up. Protective equipment and masks have been procured “on a large scale”, according to the Association of Towns and Municipalities.
More masks are produced in Weida, Thuringia on July 31st. Photo: DPA
“Even though the procurement market is naturally still tight, municipalities, hospitals and doctors' practices are much better equipped,” the association said, adding that it doesn't expect any supply bottlenecks.
The Federal Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians (Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung) has also made provisions for protective materials in the practices of general practitioners and specialists.
Health officials play a central role in tracing chains of infection, and their numbers have been significantly bulked up during the crisis, according to the Association of Towns and Municipalities.
Nevertheless, the Federal Association of Doctors of the Public Health Service is sounding an alarm: “During the first wave of the pandemic, many health offices almost doubled their staff. But that has now been largely withdrawn again,” said chairwoman Ute Teichert.
With rising numbers, more staff are again needed in order to track infections, said Landsberg.
Public awareness: Experts are concerned about a decreasing awareness of danger among people in Germany. Many people feel safer today than they did a quarter of a year ago, which is also confirmed by surveys.
The Robert Koch Institute recently said people were not sticking to social distancing rules.
Pandemics are a “creeping crisis”, so crisis awareness must be kept alive, even during less chaotic periods, said Frank Roselieb, Director of the Institute for Crisis Research in Kiel.
An information form for parents about new hygienic measures is laid out for the first day of schools starting again on Thursday. Photo: DPA
Hospitals: According to Germany’s Association of Hospitals, Krankenhäuser have learned from the first wave of infections – and are using this knowledge to benefit them in the event of a second wave.
“This applies to the cooperation of different hospitals in regional networks, the further training of personnel in respiratory medicine or the organisation of procedures,” said CEO Georg Baum.
Isolation wards are also being kept free. “The hospitals are well prepared for a possible second wave,” Baum said.
Intensive beds: There is still capacity for special beds which can be used to treat coronavirus patients. The register of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine (Divi) last reported about 9,000 free intensive care beds.
This corresponds to a share of about 42 percent of the total number of about 21,300 registered intensive care beds.
The Central Institute for Statutory Health Insurance Physician Care (Zi) does not currently foresee the health care system becoming overburdened.
Every day, the Institute calculates how much time would remain before inpatient treatment capacities would be exceeded, in light of the current infection rate. Currently, this advance warning period is 73 days.
Although the threat of overloading the healthcare system is still a long way off, this indicator has declined slightly in recent weeks.
Test capacity: According to the Accredited Laboratories in Medicine (ALM), the test capacity for so-called PCR tests (the standard coronavirus test) is still growing continuously in Germany.
The ALM laboratories carry out around 85 percent of all corona tests. While at the beginning of April, approximately 330,000 tests were evaluated per week, the test capacity in Germany is currently around 985,000 tests.
A woman being tested for the virus in Berlin's Kreuzberg neighbourhood. Photo: DPA
Although only just over half of the capacity (55 percent) is currently being used, the utilisation rate has increased recently – probably because many places, such as airports, have begun offering free tests for travellers. Starting this weekend, such tests will become mandatory for those returning from risk areas.
In many states, teachers, educators and daycare workers are also entitled to regular tests without any specific reason.
Coronavirus detection app: The Corona-Warn-App was not yet available in March just as the pandemic was breaking out, but now it's hoped the app can really help keep infections under control.
The days following its launch in June bumpy were bumpy, and several smartphones struggled with technical problems. With the latest version, however, technical difficulties have been addressed. The app aims to help to trace and interrupt chains of infection.
Further versions are currently in the works, for example in Arabic and Russian. So far, the app launched in Germany is available in German, English and Turkish. It has been downloaded around 16.6 million times.
Free University of Berlin virologist Amr Aswad said the app was the single best move an individual could make to fight the virus, on top of other daily hygienic measures.
“Basically we should all try our best to wear a mask, wash our hands regularly, keep our distance,” he told The Local. “But most importantly we should download the Corona-warn-app. In my opinion this is by far the best thing we can do to fight the pandemic right now.”