Why is Germany's COVID-1 death rate so much lower than other countries?


Germany has confirmed nearly 34,000 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning (March 25), but just 171 deaths total. That number — about a 0.5% death rate — suggests the death rate of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 is way, way lower in Germany than it is in other countries, such as France, where about 4.3% of cases have ended in death or the United States with a 1.3% mortality rate from the coronavirus.

Why does Germany seem to be spared lethal cases of the new coronavirus? Early in the infection spread, Germany began to try to test and quarantine all of those who tested positive, at a time when numbers weren't overwhelming, The Washington Post reported.

"At the beginning, when we had relatively few cases, when it came to finding them and isolating them, we did quite well in Germany," Reinhard Busse, head of the department of health care management at the Berlin University of Technology, told the Post. "That's the major reason."

Related: Coronavirus in the US: Map & cases

Some epidemiologists told the Journal that high testing rates in Germany might partly explain the lower death rate, as more testing would catch even the mildest cases. However, Germany didn't do mass testing at the highest rates — as was seen in South Korea where 10,000 tests were run a day — but Germany was meticulous about the process, the Post reported. Once an individual tested positive, officials then tracked every one of their contacts and proceeded to test and quarantine those individuals, essentially breaking "infection chains," the Post reported.

In addition, the virus is known to have more severe impacts on the elderly, and to date, most of the diagnosed cases in Germany are in younger individuals: The median age for confirmed cases of COVID-19 is 47 in Germany, compared with 63 years old in Italy (where the death rate from the coronavirus is the highest globally, at 9.5%), according to the Robert Koch Institute, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. (The median means half of the individuals are above and half are below that number.)

Related: Should you wear a face mask to prevent COVID-19? Experts disagree.

In the United States, about 8 in 10 of the coronavirus-related deaths have been in individuals 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And a study published online March 18 found that the majority of COVID-19 deaths in China were in the age group 60 and over.
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