April 2, 2020 -- Early, widespread testing could be the reason why Germany has much lower rates of coronavirus deaths than neighboring countries, experts say.
As of Wednesday, Germany had more than 71,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, and 775 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, the Associated Press reported.
In contrast, Italy has reported almost 106,000 infections and more than 12,400 deaths, Spain has more than 102,000 cases with over 9,000 deaths, France has four times as many deaths as Germany and Britain has twice as many, even though both countries have fewer reported infections.
While a number of factors may explain the differences between Germany and the other countries, some experts believe an important reason is early and widespread testing in Germany, which had a test ready in mid-January.
"The reason why we in Germany have so few deaths at the moment compared to the number of infected can be largely explained by the fact that we are doing an extremely large number of lab diagnoses," virologist Dr. Christian Drosten, whose team developed the first test for the new virus at Berlin's Charité hospital, told the AP.
Germany can conduct up to 500,000 tests a week, according to Drosten.
Spain tests 105,000 to 140,000 people a week -- about 20-30% of Germany's capability, and Italy did about 200,000 tests over the past week, but that's due to a significant recent increase, the AP reported.
As well as being quick to start widespread testing, Germany's universal health system covered the costs of the tests, which were available to everyone with symptoms who either recently traveled to a coronavirus hotspot or had close contact with somone confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus.
Then there's the availability of ICU beds. Italy had 8.6 intensive care unit beds per 100,000 people before the outbreak, according to the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development. By comparison, Germany's most recent available figure is 33.9 per 100,000, or about 28,000 in total, a number the government wants to double.
"We are well prepared today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," Dr. Uwe Janssens, who heads Germany's Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the AP.