Updated: Mar 9, 2020
By Aaron Werner (updated 8 March 2020)
Coronavirus, or “COVID-19” is constantly spreading further. As of Sunday (8 March), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Germany has hit 988 - up from 692 on Saturday – and with many more expected. 15 out of 16 of Germany’s states have reported the virus, with the most cases reported in the most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia. Saxony Anhalt is the only German state without a reported case, however this could likely change as the virus continues to spread Currently, no deaths caused by the virus have been reported within Germany and 18 people are considered to have recovered since the first instances of recorded cases in January.
As in the UK and elsewhere, health authorities in Germany have urged people to avoid shaking hands and take other preventative measures. These include washing hands thoroughly, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, sneezing and coughing into the elbow instead of the hand, disposing of used tissues and the cleaning of surfaces with strong alcohol-based disinfectants. A more thorough list of information released by the government (in German) can be found here.
Jens Han, a key spokesperson for Germany’s Federal Ministry of Health encouraged the cancellation of events with more than 1000 participants. Many events with a large number of participants are also being cancelled, such as the Leipzig Book Fair - further cancelations are likely.
Preparations for an influx of patients are already being made at hospitals within Germany, and the government announced that it is creating a new crisis team to “rigorously” contain the spread of COVID-19.
Some travel restrictions have already been put into place. Domestically, Health Minister Jens Spahn advises against travel to areas with high rates of infection, such as the entire state of North Rhine-Westphalia and particularly affected regions in Italy." Looking overseas, Israel announced on Thursday that there are now travel bans for travellers entering from Germany unless they are able to self-quarantine. Germany’s Foreign Office states on its website “be aware of travel restrictions, expect health checks to be implemented at borders and be prepared for delays or changes to travel routes”. The website also states that plane passengers travelling from China, Japan, South Korea, Iran or Italy must fill in a landing card and can expect to be subject to further controls. The German Health Ministry also advised that “travellers from all of China have been required to fill in landing cards, with information detailing their recent movements and location of where they are planning to stay”.
Germany’s airline industry has suffered as a result of the virus and people’s hesitation to travel abroad. Lufthansa has grounded half of its flights as a result of a “drastic declines” in demand as well as cancelling all flights to mainland China until April and announced a freeze on hiring, in an attempt to slow down financial losses. Other key European airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair have also reported huge losses and flight cancellations. According to the International Air, the total impact on revenue in the Airline industry could exceed $100 billion.
Schools and nurseries within Germany currently remain open, with a few isolated exceptions. There is debate about whether this is the right decision, as widespread closure of schools (and other ‘social isolation’ measures) could help slow the spread of the virus significantly. Japan and Italy have already implemented nationwide school closures for the time being.
Germans have been altogether slow to react to the scare of a pandemic, life is going on as usual for the most part, however the worries are increasingly showing through Hamsterkauf (panic buying) in German supermarkets - in particular for products such as face masks and hand sanitizers. It seems that overall Germany has been disappointingly inept with their preparations for what could according to some scientists be a “catastrophic epidemic”.
As the situation is evolves, it is important to keep up to date with official information and advice.