Germany’s rate of new coronavirus infections dropped from 21 per cent to 15 per cent today while the country’s death rate remained strikingly low.
Official figures from the Robert Koch health institute showed the total number of cases in Germany rising by 4,118, taking the total from 27,436 to 31,554.
The death toll climbed by 35, rising from 114 to 149 – an overall death rate of just under 0.5 per cent, far lower than Germany’s major European neighbours.
The low death rate has not been fully explained, but may be linked to more comprehensive testing, younger patients and more intensive care facilities.
Germany has a policy of ‘doing everything to find, isolate, test and treat every case’, unlike in the UK where people with mild symptoms are not routinely tested.
This chart shows the death rate in the six worst-affected European countries. Germany’s remains the lowest, with only one death per 200 patients
Germany has recorded far more cases than the UK, possibly because of Berlin’s policy of trying to find and test every case
But the UK has recorded more deaths, with Germany’s total death toll still only at 149 today
More than half of Germany’s deaths have come in either the populous western state of North Rhine-Westphalia or in southern Bavaria.
In the latest daily update there were 879 new cases in North Rhine-Westphalia and 804 new infections reported in Bavaria.
There are also more than 1,400 cases in Berlin, although only two people have died in the German capital.
The overall increase across Germany was 15 per cent, lower than the 21 per cent rise on Tuesday and 22 per cent on Monday.
However, the 4,118 new cases mark the second-highest daily jump in absolute terms.
Germany’s finance minister today asked lawmakers to suspend the country’s strict debt rules to prepare for the economic impact of the crisis.
Olaf Scholz told the Bundestag that the government needed to borrow €156billion (£141billion) to protect public health and keep struggling companies afloat.
He proposed using an exit clause for emergencies to get around Germany’s debt rules, a notable departure from Berlin’s usual fiscal discipline.
An empty street in Munich yesterday, the capital of Bavaria which has been one of the hardest-hit regions of GErmany
Barricades in front of a coronavirus testing centre in Munich, with streets mostly deserted
‘That’s a gigantic sum, nearly half of our normal budget for one year,’ Scholz said.
‘And since this is such a large sum, the German Bundestag must decide if it uses the envisaged exemption to the debt rule in the constitution for the case of an extraordinary emergency.’
Scholz appealed to lawmakers to approve the unprecedented step, ‘because we need the money so that we can fight the social and economic impact of the crisis with full force.’
Scholz spoke instead of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is still quarantined after having contact with a doctor who tested positive for coronavirus.
In parliament, lawmakers were sitting several feet apart to protect each other from possible infection.
‘We’re currently experiencing a crisis unprecedented in the history of the Federal Republic [since 1949]. This crisis is big – totally different from the crises of the past time,’ Scholz said.
The government’s package includes 100billion euros for an economic stability fund that can take direct equity stakes in companies, and 100 billion euros in credit to public-sector development bank KfW for loans to struggling businesses.
On top of that, the stability fund will offer 400billion euros in loan guarantees to secure corporate debt at risk of defaulting, taking the overall package to more than 750 billion euros.
The combined sum of new debt represents roughly 10 per cent of Germany’s gross domestic product.
That does not include a fiscal stimulus package promised by Scholz to take effect after the virus is contained and the economy is picking up again.
Meanwhile, German hospitals with spare capacity yesterday welcomed their first coronavirus patients from Italy, where the health system were overwhelmed.
German officials are still preparing for a larger wave of home-grown infections.
Nonetheless, first group of six Italian patients arrived at Leipzig airport in the eastern state of Saxony on Tuesday morning.
Germany is accepting coronavirus patients from nearby Italy, some of whom arrived at Leipzig/Halle airport early on Tuesday morning (pictured)
Barricades on a deserted street in Munich yesterday. The German government is planning to relax its usually strict fiscal policies to tackle the crisis
North Rhine-Westphalia also announced plans to take 10 Italian patients over coming days. ‘We need solidarity across borders in Europe,’ said state premier Armin Laschet. ‘We want to preserve the European spirit.’
Saxony premier Michael Kretschmer said the government in Italy, where deaths have risen above 6,000, had asked for help. Germany was the first country to take in Italian patients.
Leipzig’s university hospital took two of the transported patients, a spokesman said, both critically ill 57-year-old men moved from intensive care in Bergamo.
A benefit to Germany is that its hospitals will gain valuable further experience in treating coronavirus patients before the country’s tally of serious cases soars.
The government is offering hospitals huge state subsidies to help accelerate plans to double its intensive care capacity, currently at around 28,000 beds.
Germany has also been more rigorous than some other EU countries in testing for coronavirus, one possible factor behind the country’s exceptionally low mortality rate.
German hospitals also took in coronavirus patients from France on Tuesday.
‘We have still three, five, seven days because we are before the (bigger) wave,’ Hartmut Bueckle, a spokesman for the university clinic in Freiburg, told Welt TV.
‘We want to use this time to offer our French neighbours the possibilities we still have for now.’
Thomas Kirschning, a senior doctor and intensive care coordinator in the western city of Mannheim, said his clinic had taken a recovering 64-year-old French patient from Colmar, where the intensive care capacity is stretched to breaking point.
‘Colleagues in France are overburdened at the moment,’ Kirschning told Reuters in a television interview.
‘At a time when our neighbours urgently need help, we would like to do our part…as an act of cooperation and humanity to take on the patients and help them,’ he said.