Multiply the tests and place the patients in quarantine: to prevent saturation of its hospitals, where the staff is lacking, the German government is adopting the Korean strategy against the coronavirus.

Multiply the tests and place the patients in quarantine: to prevent saturation of its hospitals, where the staff is lacking, the German government is adopting the Korean strategy against the coronavirus.

(.) – Often shown as an example in Europe for managing the epidemic, Germany already practices, according to the authorities, between 300,000 and 500,000 screenings per week, a rate higher than many of its European neighbors, France in particular who reserves them only for patients with severe pathology. In proportion, Luxembourg appears to be one of the countries that tests the most in the world with 13,738 screening examinations as of March 27.

As for the government of Angela Merkel, he does not intend to stop there: a document of the Ministry of the Interior, which has just been revealed by several media, prescribes a strategy inspired by South Korea, with no less than 200,000 tests per day.

All those who believe they have covid-19, as well as all those likely to have been in contact with a patient, would now be tested, the document states. Currently, screenings concern people who are both sick and have been in contact with a positive person.


The document also considers geolocation, a tool used by Seoul, “inevitable in the long term” to allow the population to follow the places where people tested positive are. “South Korea can be an example” despite the cultural differences between the two countries, said Sunday in the FAZ daily the head of the Robert Koch Institute, responsible for piloting the fight against the epidemic in Germany, Lothar Wieler. He pointed in particular to “geolocation”.

A lively debate has already started on this subject in Germany, where the question of the protection of private data is considered sacrosanct after two dictatorships in the 20th century. In recent weeks, South Korea has been cited as an example: a massive screening campaign, isolation of infected people and technological tracing to find and then test the people with whom they have been in contact.

With 389 deaths for some 52,547 cases at this stage, and a fatality rate of just 0.7%, the situation in Germany is far from being as dramatic as in other European countries. However, Mr. Wieler did not rule out that the country would end up experiencing an Italian situation, with overwhelmed hospitals. Despite the fact that Germany has an “excellent health system, perhaps one of the best in the world”, according to Angela Merkel, the pandemic indeed reveals the evils of the German health system.

Germany certainly has more than 25,000 respiratory assistance beds. But “in recent months, some intensive care beds have been closed because there were not enough qualified staff” available, says Reinhard Busse, specialist in health economics at the Technical University of Berlin. For several years now, there have been some 17,000 vacant nursing positions. The situation is such that a number of establishments, including the large Berlin University Hospital of La Charité, had to call for help medical students or retirees from the sector.


“Even before the coronavirus crisis, normal operations could not be maintained due to the understaffing,” said Uwe Lübking of the Association of German Cities. And when positions are filled, nurses have to spend almost four hours a day doing “paperwork” because of delays in scanning, deplores the German Hospital Corporation.

The mode of financing hospitals and clinics, fee-for-service pricing, with a fixed sum paid per operation, is also pointed out: set up in 2003, it would encourage establishments to carry out certain planned operations, such as hip or knee prostheses, to the detriment of emergency care.

In a letter to some 2,000 hospital and clinic managers, Mr. Spahn solemnly asked them on March 14 to give it up. Another major difficulty in a country with an aging population: the departure of a large part of the 200,000 Polish, Ukrainian or Baltic carers who provide daily assistance to between 300,000 and 500,000 elderly people fears a new health disaster.

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