Mass testing, empty ICUs: Germany scores early against virus
There may be many factors at play, but experts said early on that fast and widespread testing gave Germany an edge.
“The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths at the moment compared to the number of infected can be largely explained by the fact that we are doing an extremely large number of lab diagnoses,” said virologist Dr. Christian Drosten, whose team developed the first test for the new virus at Berlin’s Charité hospital — established over 300 years ago to treat plague victims.
He estimated that Germany is now capable of conducting up to 500,000 tests a week.
Spain, meanwhile, tests between 105,000 and 140,000 people each week, about 20% to 30% what Germany is capable of. Italy did around 200,000 tests over the past week, but that reflects a significant recent ramp-up.
Early access to the test from Drosten’s team is only part of the reason for Germany’s head start. Before the country even registered its first case, authorities agreed the tests would be covered by its universal insurance system, and be available to everyone with symptoms and either recent travel to virus hotspots or close contact with a confirmed case.