‘Central voice of the pandemic’: Top German virologist given prize for coronavirus podcast

'Central voice of the pandemic': Top German virologist given prize for coronavirus podcast
Christian Drosten in Hamburg on Thursday. Photo: DPA
He is a controversial figure in Germany, especially among those critical of government coronavirus rules and lockdown measures.

However, Christian Drosten, a world-leading expert on coronaviruses, has undoubtedly become a star since the pandemic started earlier this  year. 

Now he's been honoured by the Deutschen Radiopreis (German Radio Awards) for his coronavirus podcast.

Judges said the scientist succeeded in “presenting complex scientific and epidemiological correlations in a way that is generally understandable” in his NDR podcast, the Coronavirus Update.

Born in 1972, Drosten is director of the Institute of Virology at the Charité Berlin. He is considered to be part of the team who discovered the SARS virus, which resulted in about 8,000 people worldwide becoming infected and about 800 deaths in 2002/03.

In 2003 Drosten developed a diagnostic test which he immediately made available to international scientists. In 2005 he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for this work.

This year the virologist and his team was the first worldwide to develop a test-kit for Covid-19.

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Podcast listened to it more than 60 million times

The 48-year-old professor took the listeners with the podcast “on an exciting discovery journey to the virus”, according to judges who awarded him a special prize.

Drosten had explained the ins and outs of the virus and insisted on separation between politics and science. This made him the “central voice in the pandemic”, judges said.

The podcast is produced by NDR Info and began at the end of February. According to NDR, the more than 50 episodes have already been accessed by the public more than 60 million times.

The German Radio Awards, which were held in Hamburg on Thursday, also honour the country's best radio producers in 10 categories.

Why is Drosten controversial?

Since the start of the pandemic, Drosten has been advising Chancellor Angela Merkel's government on Covid-19 measures credited with bringing the outbreak under control by early May and keeping the death toll relatively low.

But his high profile and frequent media appearances have also made him a target for a noisy minority angry about social distancing rules they see as too restrictive and even authoritarian.

The debate came to a head at the end of May when Drosten got involved in a bitter public row with Bild newspaper, which attempted to cast doubt on his scientific research.

READ ALSO: Why Germany's coronavirus 'guru' is being targeted by lockdown critics

He has been called a “guru” and “godsend” for his expertise on the virus. And polls have shown strong public backing for the government measures which helped to lower the rate of infection and lead to reopening businesses.

But opposition to virus restrictions has been growing, with several demonstrations across German cities in recent weeks.

The virologist had warned in his podcast back in March that too much media attention would push scientists to withdraw from public life.


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