“Laboratories are on the verge of saturation, particularly in large cities”

A lab technician handles samples for Covid-19 testing in Berlin, Germany, September 22.

Concern is growing in Germany, as the country has recorded more than 4,000 new daily confirmed cases of Covid-19 this week – a first since the start of April. “The number of infections is increasing (…) with a worrying magnitude “, thus warned the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, Thursday, October 8. Especially since the jump comes as the fall break is due to begin in much of the country.

Our correspondent in Berlin, Thomas Wieder, answered your questions about the management of the outbreak in Germany. Since the onset of the disease, just over 9,500 people have died in Germany, or 115 per million population; this is significantly less than in France (around 500), Italy (600), Spain (700) or even Belgium (870).

Read also the report: In Germany, cacophony and concern about the rapid rise in the number of contaminations

Valentine – Is it compulsory to wear a mask in German cities?

The wearing of the mask has been imposed in shops as well as in transport since the end of April. In schools, it is generally compulsory from the “5e class “ (the equivalent of CM2 in France), but not in classrooms. On the street, however, no one is forced to wear a mask.

Mo – What about the equivalent StopCovid application in Germany?

The Corona Warn App – that’s its name – has been downloaded just over 18 million times since its launch in mid-June. This is about six times more than in France. But this difference should not be misled. By early September, it was estimated that around 3,000 users had received the validation code needed to identify themselves as “Sick” on the app after receiving a positive test, which is not enough.

Also read the decryption: In Germany, the trompe-l’oeil success of the Corona-Warn-App against Covid-19

Among the population, doubts about the usefulness of the device have increased, according to a series of studies conducted by the Technical University of Munich. At the end of June, 29% of those questioned believed that the application would help reduce the number of contaminations; by the beginning of September, they were down to 23%.

Cloe – Are decisions about the fight against the epidemic taken at the federal level or at the regional level?

Most decisions are taken by the Länder. This is the big difference with France. Since the start of the pandemic, we have witnessed permanent negotiations between the federal government and the Länder, with coordination meetings, once or twice a month, led by Angela Merkel, who is trying – with varying degrees of success – to ” harmonize things in order to prevent the measures from going all over the place.

Djaro – Is containment possible in all the major cities of the country?

Containment has never been equivalent in Germany to what it has been in France, Italy, Spain or other countries more affected by the pandemic. Even if, like everywhere, the outings were very limited at the end of March and in April, with schools and practically all businesses closed.

Today there is no official talk of a new “Lockdown”, as the authorities say. The question was asked again yesterday to the Minister of Health, and his answer was once again negative: “The epidemic is not spreading in stores, not in hairdressers and very little in public transport”, he justified.

Emmy – What is the testing policy in Germany?

The tests are reserved for people who have symptoms, who have been in contact with infected people or who have returned from a classified area ” at risk “ by the Robert-Koch Institute of Public Health.

This summer, the Land of Bavaria offered to all travelers to be tested, even those who did not spend their holidays in a “risk area”. But this resulted in engorgement, with a number of problems (results arriving eight or ten days after the test, sometimes even lost results, etc.). In short, the logistics did not follow, and this convinced the authorities that we cannot test everyone.

Currently, just over a million tests are performed each week. A new screening strategy is due to be presented by the federal government within days. German laboratories are now on the verge of saturation, especially in large cities.

Matthieu – How do the Germans explain their relative success in the fight against the coronavirus, given the figures and the comparison with other European countries?

What was crucial in Germany, at least at the start of the epidemic, were the tests. The fact that they were early and in large numbers from the end of February made it possible in particular for asymptomatic carriers, knowing they were infected, not to transmit the virus to others, and in particular to the elderly.

It also explains why mortality was quite low in the country during the acute phase of the epidemic. At the time, the average age of people with Covid-19 there was around 45-50 years, where it was over 60 in countries like France and Italy.

Nesar – Demonstrations have been seen in Germany against the wearing of masks and distancing measures. Are we really witnessing a rise in this state of mind in the population?

Polls show that anti-Covid-19 measures are widely approved in the country. In a survey for the public channel ZDF, published this morning, 64% of people questioned consider these measures “Adapted”, 23% want more drastic restrictions, but only 12% consider the measures in place to be excessive.

Once we have said that, we must not underestimate the existence of a well organized anti-mask movement which knows how to make itself heard, as some large demonstrations have shown which took place mainly in Baden-Baden. Württemberg and Berlin, since spring.

Also read the story: Germany shocked by the excesses of the “anti-masks”

That said, we have noticed, for some time, that this movement is struggling to spread, and this, in my opinion, for two reasons: the first, it is the sharp rise in the number of contaminations since the start of the school year, which makes the less audible anti-mask speech and, in a way, out of tune; the second is the politicization of this movement, in which the most radical far right is very active.

From this point of view, the images of a few hundred neo-Nazis who attempted to storm the Reichstag on August 29, on the sidelines of the large demonstration organized that day in Berlin against the anti-Covid-19 measures, gave a very bad impression of this movement and made it difficult to frequent, except by a very limited minority.

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