Germany has limited coronavirus death toll but faces criticism

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Doctors in Berlin, Germany.Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Germany has been praised for its fight against the coronavirus pandemic, having managed to keep the death toll below 10,000 so far, while its European neighbors have seen much higher deaths.But the chief executive of Germany’s healthcare group Fresenius warned the country may be too focused on the pandemic, ignoring other areas of business and society that have suffered.

“Even though a lot has been done the right way, my criticism is that we have focused too exclusively on the coronavirus and we have ignored all the collateral damage that has happened and continues to continue,” said the CEO of Fresenius, Stephan Sturm. CNBC Wednesday.

The damage was evident in the healthcare industry, he said, “with all the cases of cancer, heart attacks and strokes not being treated as they should be.” But also in society we see lost school years and many children in precarious situations and suffering from what is happening with us focusing exclusively on Covid, ”he said.

As the coronavirus crisis exploded in Europe, companies like Fresenius, which has a Helios hospital operating unit, have been forced to delay and cancel elective surgeries. The German government, however, offered fixed compensation to hospitals for procedures they were forced to cancel.

Sturm said government compensation helped. He also insisted that his concerns about the focus on the coronavirus were not due to business interests, but to being a “responsible citizen”.

“The German government has been good enough to provide a set of compensation that makes us halfway home for the fixed costs that are going on. But yes, the fixed costs hurt us since we were basically prohibited from treating patients with elective surgery. There, from the trough of March-April, we witness a regular and gradual healing. ”

To date, Germany has registered 278,515 infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Its current death toll of 9,421 is far lower than that of its European counterparts.

Nevertheless, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) shows that cases are on the rise, especially in the cities of Munich and Hamburg. Another 1,769 cases were reported on Wednesday after 1,821 new infections were recorded on Tuesday. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for a crisis summit next week with regional governors, German media reported on Monday.

Despite the “best” data, Fresenius published a study in August on the impact of the pandemic on Germany in which he said the clinical course of the virus in the country was as bad as in other countries.

“Two out of three Covid-19 patents in intensive care in Germany require mechanical ventilation. A third of ventilated intensive care patients die, compared with a quarter of unventilated intensive care patients, ”according to the study, which had collected and analyzed data on Covid-19 patents treated in 86 German hospitals managed by Helios since start of the pandemic in February.

“This shows that the clinical course of patients with Covid-19 in Germany is as bad as in countries hardest hit by the pandemic such as Italy, France, the United Kingdom and Belgium,” says the study.

The CEO of Fresenius told CNBC he believes Germany has seen the death toll drop for several reasons. “A) We had a good hospital infrastructure to start with and B) we were relatively late (to see cases) and we could learn good lessons from other countries and C) I think social distancing is a good part of German culture and so we had much better preconditions to deal with that. “

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