► How many tests does Germany carry out?
No exact figure is known on this point. According to Andreas Gassen, president of the Federation of Convention Doctors, 410,000 tests were carried out from March 9 to 26 in the country, but that is not counting on those carried out in university hospitals. Christian Drosten, head of the virology department at the Charity Hospital in Berlin, estimated on Thursday March 26 that a total of 500,000 tests had been carried out in one week in the country. “We perform an extremely high number of laboratory diagnostics. It’s a great strength ”, confirms this virologist.
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The country is looking to increase its capacities. The contracted doctors alone can now perform 360,000 tests per week. “It will not be enough to test the 83 million Germans”, however, recalls Andreas Gassen.
► Why does Germany test more than its neighbors?
The country started very early, at the end of January, to test its citizens, on the initiative not of policies but of the Robert-Koch institute, reference establishment for applied research and public health in Germany. This speed of action is linked to the discovery of the first global test for the detection of Covid-19, which is due to a team of researchers led by Christian Drosten. On January 20, the Charity Hospital officially approved the validation of this test by the World Health Organization (WHO).
“The formula was immediately shared in the network of university hospitals in Germany “Said Christian Drosten this week. “From January, these university hospitals were able to carry out the first diagnoses, in a regional manner, as close as possible to the patients” he explained. Already in 2003, this same virologist had shared the test formula against SARS, which he and his team had also discovered.
► How are the Germans tested?
Reimbursed by social security, the tests primarily concern people who simultaneously meet two criteria. They must have symptoms of the disease – without necessarily being serious, as in France -, and they must also have been in contact with patients, work in the medical field, or belong to a risk group. “We are not expanding the testing criteria. On the contrary, we specify them over time ”, confirmed, this week, Andreas Gassen.
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These tests are performed in hospitals and general practitioners, sometimes directly on patients installed in their vehicles. The samples are then entrusted to a vast network of laboratories, as well as to veterinary laboratories, which are now involved. In the event of a positive test, the patients are forced into confinement at home.
► Does this explain the low death rate across the Rhine?
According to the American John-Hopkins University, the death rate in Germany stood at 0.7% on Saturday March 28 in the morning (with 395 deaths out of 53,340 confirmed cases), against 10% in Italy, 7% in Spain and 5% in France. “Thanks to the high number of tests, we hope that the number of unknown cases is lower than that of our neighbors”, confirms Andreas Gassen.
However, the tests do not explain everything. According to the Robert-Koch Institute, a benchmark institution for applied research and public health, German patients are younger than in other countries. They are 47 years old on average against, for example, 63 years in Italy. In some regions, such as Bavaria, many young people were infected during their winter holidays spent in Austria and Italy.
Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn says tests have allowed his country to “ win time ” without removing the danger. “It’s calm before the storm” he warned, Thursday, March 26. With, in recent days, some 6,000 new cases recorded on average daily, a slowdown in the curve is not yet observed, without we can say, again, how big the wave will be.