Coronavirus: Why is the death rate lower in Germany than in other countries?

Coronavirus: Why is the death rate lower in Germany than in other countries?

Here and in our newsletter we regularly answer a question from our readers about the corona virus.

Do you also have medical questions about Covid-19 or would you like to know more precisely what economic, political or social effects the crisis will have for Germany and the world? Write to us at

Reader Patrick Dahmen asks: Why is the death rate lower in Germany than in other countries? He couldn’t imagine that our health system was so much better.

Nina Weber, health editor at SPIEGEL, replied: There are a number of reasons for the fact that the death rates in countries currently differ widely in some cases. Incidentally, the death rate here refers to how many of those who have been proven to have died of Sars-CoV-2 due to the disease.

So far, all the circulating figures have been provisional and can be compared with caution – which is also related to the following possible reasons why the death rate in Germany, for example, is currently significantly lower than in Italy or Great Britain.

1. First of all, the death rate derived from the current figures is influenced by how many cases of infection have been discovered but may have been overlooked. So it reflects to some extent how intensively the Sars-Cov-2 is tested in suspected cases.

The British health authority NHS reports (as of March 18) that almost 54,000 people have been tested for the novel corona virus. Infection was confirmed in 2626 cases. 103 people who had Covid-19 died of it. That means: Almost four percent of people with a proven infection have died so far.

The Robert Koch Institute registered for Germany on March 19. a total of 10,999 cases and reported that 20 people died from Covid. So far, 0.2 percent of people with a proven infection have died from it.

But: Germany carried out around 100,000 tests in calendar week 11 alone, significantly more than the British as a whole. One can therefore assume that there are or were more undetected infections in Great Britain than in Germany. South Korea, where testing has been very intensive, has had a comparatively low death rate so far.

2. Another difference between nations is that average age of the population. Italy, which is particularly badly affected by the corona pandemic, has a relatively old population. WHO’s Michael Ryan said on Wednesday at the organization’s press conference: “Italy has always been a role model for how people can live longer healthily. But in this situation, it can lead to higher death rates there.”

It matters who gets sick or where local outbreaks occur. The virus has spread to a retirement home in the United States. At least 81 of the 120 residents have contracted, 34 have already died, reported the “Seattle Times”. A tragedy in which the pathogen was able to spread exactly among the people to whom it became the most dangerous.

3. When the wave of disease has reached a level that local Healthcare capacity overwhelmed, the death rate increases because not all seriously ill people can be cared for appropriately. This is particularly evident in Italy and this was also the case in Wuhan, where the death rate was significantly higher than in the rest of China.

4. Especially considering the figures from Germany, it is far too early to determine a death rate. Because the outbreak is just beginning here, in a phase in which one first detects infections, but the disease in most people is not yet very advanced. The fact that many people are dying every day in Italy is also due to the fact that the outbreak started earlier there and that sick people lost the fight against Covid-19 after three or four weeks.

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