COVID-19 pandemic in Germany
Confirmed cases per 10,000 inhabitants by district
Map of states with confirmed coronavirus cases (as of 30 March):
|Arrival date||27 January 2020|
(1 year, 1 month, 1 week and 2 days)
|Origin||Wuhan, Hubei, China|
|Recovered||150,300 (estimate)[lower-alpha 1]|
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic spread to Germany on 27 January 2020, when the first case was confirmed and contained near Munich, Bavaria. The majority of cases in January and early February originated from the same automobile-parts manufacturer as the first case. On 25 and 26 February, multiple cases related to the Italian outbreak were detected in Baden-Württemberg. A large cluster linked to a carnival event was formed in Heinsberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, with the first death reported on 9 March 2020. New clusters were introduced in other regions via Heinsberg as well as via people arriving from China, Iran and Italy, from where non-Germans could arrive by plane until 17–18 March.
German disease and epidemic control is advised by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) according to a national pandemic plan. The outbreaks were first managed in a containment stage, which attempted to minimise the expansion of clusters. The German government and several health officials stated the country was well-prepared and did not initially implement special measures to stockpile medical supplies or limit public freedom. Since 13 March, the pandemic has been managed in the protection stage as per the RKI plan, with German states mandating school and kindergarten closures, postponing academic semesters and prohibiting visits to nursing homes to protect the elderly. Two days later, borders to five neighbouring countries were closed. By 22 March, all regional governments had announced curfews or restrictions in public spaces. Throughout Germany, travelling is only allowed in groups not exceeding two people unless they are from the same household. Some German states imposed further restrictions allowing people to leave their homes only for specified activities including commuting to work, exercising or purchasing food.
As of 14 May 2020,[update] 174,948 cases had been reported with 7,928 deaths and approximately 150,300 recoveries. The low preliminary fatality rate in Germany, compared to Italy and Spain, has resulted in a discussion and explanations that cite the country's higher number of tests performed, higher number of available intensive care beds with respiratory support, absence of COVID-19 analyses in autopsies and higher proportion of positive cases among younger people. The head of the Robert Koch Institute warned that the German death rate would increase over time.
Background[edit source | edit]
On 12 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that a novel coronavirus was the cause of a respiratory illness in a cluster of people in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, which was reported to the WHO on 31 December 2019.
Timeline by state[edit source | edit]
Baden-Württemberg[edit source | edit]
On 25 February, a 25-year-old man from Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg, who had recently returned from Milan, Italy, tested positive and was treated in Klinik am Eichert. On 26 February, Baden-Württemberg confirmed three new cases. The 24-year-old girlfriend of the 25-year-old man from Göppingen and her 60-year-old father, who worked as a chief physician at University Hospital Tübingen, tested positive and were admitted to the same hospital in Tübingen. A 32-year-old man from Rottweil, Baden-Württemberg, who had visited Codogno, Italy with his family on 23 February, tested positive and was admitted to a hospital for isolation.
On 27 February, Baden-Württemberg confirmed four new cases, for a total of eight cases in the region. Two women and a man from Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald and Freiburg, respectively, tested positive. They had had contact with an Italian participant at a business meeting in Munich; he was subsequently tested positive in Italy. A man from the district of Böblingen, who had had contact with the travel companion of the patient from Göppingen, also tested positive.
On 28 February, Baden-Württemberg confirmed five new cases, bringing the total number of cases in the state to thirteen. A man from Ludwigsburg with flu symptoms who had tested negative for influenza virus was automatically tested for SARS-CoV-2 and confirmed positive. A man from Rhine-Neckar returning from a short ski holiday with mild cold symptoms checked himself in to the emergency department of the University Hospital Heidelberg and tested positive. A 32-year-old man in Heilbronn tested positive and was admitted to a hospital. He had been in Milan on 21 February and fallen ill with flu symptoms on 23 February. A man from Breisgau who had travelled to Bergamo, Italy also tested positive and underwent isolation.
Bavaria[edit source | edit]
On 27 January 2020, the Bavarian Ministry of Health announced that a 52-year-old employee of Webasto, a German car parts supplier at Starnberg, Bavaria had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. He contracted the infection from a Chinese colleague who had received a visit in Shanghai from her parents from Wuhan. His was the first known case of a person contracting the virus outside of China from a non-relative – the first known transmission of the virus outside China being father to son in Vietnam.
On 28 January, three more cases were confirmed, a 27-year-old and a 40-year-old man as well as a 33-year-old woman. All three were also employees of Webasto. They were monitored and quarantined at the München Hospital in Schwabing.
On 30 January, a man from Siegsdorf who worked for the same company tested positive; on 31 January and 3 February respectively, both his children tested positive. His wife also tested positive on 6 February. A 52-year-old Webasto employee from Fürstenfeldbruck tested positive.
On 1 February, a 33-year-old Webasto employee living in Munich tested positive. On 3 February, another employee was confirmed positive. On 7 February, the wife of a previously diagnosed man tested positive. On 11 February, a 49-year-old Webasto employee tested positive, as did a family member of a previously diagnosed employee.
On 8 March, a 83-year-old resident of the St. Nikolaus home of the elderly in Würzburg was brought into hospital and died four days later diagnosed with COVID-19, becoming the first reported death of the virus in Bavaria.
By 27 March, ten more residents of the St. Nikolaus home of the elderly had also died of the virus and 44 residents and 32 employees tested positive. The residency complained about a lack of personnel and protective equipment.
Berlin[edit source | edit]
The first case detected in the nation's capital of Berlin was reported on 2 March 2020. On 17 March, the government of Berlin announced plans to open a 1,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients on the grounds of Messe Berlin in the Westend locality of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf.
Brandenburg[edit source | edit]
Bremen[edit source | edit]
Hamburg[edit source | edit]
Hesse[edit source | edit]
On 28 February, Hesse officials confirmed three new cases in Lahn-Dill, Hochtaunuskreis and Giessen. The cases in Lahn-Dill and Giessen were linked to the cluster in NRW, and the case in Hochtaunuskreis to the one in Lahn-Dill.
Lower Saxony[edit source | edit]
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern[edit source | edit]
North Rhine-Westphalia[edit source | edit]
On 25 February, a 47-year-old man tested positive in Erkelenz, Heinsberg at North Rhine-Westphalia. He had been previously treated at University Hospital of Cologne on 13 and 19 February for a pre-existing medical condition. 41 medical staff members and patients were identified to have had contact with him at the hospital; one person from medical staff showed symptoms and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.
On 27 February, Heinsberg confirmed fourteen new cases: nine from Gangelt, two from Selfkant, one from the city of Heinsberg, one from Düsseldorf and one from Herzogenrath. Multiple cases were linked to the Gangelter Carnival. All of them were placed in home isolation. This brought the current total to twenty in the district. A medical doctor in Mönchengladbach tested positive and was quarantined at home. He had attended the same carnival event in Gangelt.
On 28 February, Aachen confirmed the first COVID-19 case in the region, a woman from Herzogenrath (Aachen district), who had attended the carnival event in Gangelt on 15 February and underwent home isolation. Heinsberg confirmed 17 new cases, bringing the current total to 37 cases in the district.
On 29 February, the number of confirmed cases in Heinsberg rose to sixty. Additionally, one case was confirmed in Bonn, three more in the Aachen district (one in Aachen and two in Würselen), and one in Lüdenscheid. Cologne, Mönchengladbach and Duisburg also each reported two cases. The first cases in Münster were confirmed.
On 5 March 195 cases were confirmed by laboratory test in Heinsberg. The local authorities announced that all schools, kindergartens, daycare facilities and interdisciplinary early intervention centres would remain closed until at least 15 March 2020. Six people tested positive in Münster. Four were pupils at Marienschule, one was a child under care in "Outlaw-Kita" day care centre in Hiltrup, and the sixth was a resident of Coesfeld, working at Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe in Münster. The school and the day care centre were closed as a precaution.
On 6 March, confirmed cases in Heinsberg rose to 220. A mobile medical care unit was deployed in Gangelt-Birgden. Bochum's second case was confirmed, after the wife of the city's first confirmed case also tested positive.
On 8 March, the count of cases in the state rose to 484. Of these, 277 were in Heinsberg. Bochum recorded its fourth case after a woman tested positive after returning from a holiday in South Tyrol, Italy. She went into quarantine at home. A 44-year-old Münster resident tested positive and underwent quarantine with his family. Düsseldorf confirmed its fourth case, a man who had contact with individuals in Heinsberg. All cases in Düsseldorf were reported to be asymptomatic, or with mild symptoms. There were six new infections in Erkrath, Mettmann district. An additional three people were infected with the virus in Bergkamen, Unna district. They are believed to have come into contact with an infected person during a visit to Hamburg.
On 11 March, the number of positive cases in North Rhine-Westphalia increased to 801, including three deaths.
On 13 March, all schools and kindergartens were closed by the government of NRW.
Rhineland-Palatinate[edit source | edit]
On 26 February, a 41-year-old soldier who worked in Cologne-Wahn military airport and had attended a Carnival event in Gangelt with the 47-year-old patient from North Rhine-Westphalia was admitted to Bundeswehr Central Hospital, Koblenz, the first case in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Saarland[edit source | edit]
Saxony[edit source | edit]
Saxony-Anhalt[edit source | edit]
On 10 March 2020, Saxony-Anhalt reported eight confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it the last federal state to be affected by the disease. As of 26 March, the subdivisions of Jessen and Schweinitz in the municipality of Jessen (Elster) are under quarantine, with no one apart from emergency workers allowed in or out. The cause is reported to be an increased number of COVID-19 infections in a retirement home there.
Schleswig-Holstein[edit source | edit]
Thuringia[edit source | edit]
Other[edit source | edit]
Repatriated German citizens[edit source | edit]
National Pandemic Plan[edit source | edit]
Germany has a common National Pandemic Plan, which describes the responsibilities and measures of the health care system actors in case of a huge epidemic. Epidemic control is executed both by the federal authorities such as Robert Koch Institute and by the German states. The German states have their own epidemic plans. In early March, the national plan was extended for the handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Four major targets are included in this plan:
- Reduce morbidity and mortality
- Ensure treatment of infected persons
- Upkeep of essential public services
- Reliable and accurate information for decision-makers, medical professionals, media and public
The plan has three stages, which might eventually overlap due to regional differences in the evolution of the pandemic:
- Containment (circumstances of dedicated cases and clusters)
- Protection (circumstances of further spreading infections and unknown sources of infections)
- Mitigation (circumstances of widespread infections)
In the containment stage health authorities are focusing on identifying contact persons who are put in personal quarantine and are monitored and tested. Personal quarantine is overseen by the local health agencies. By doing so, authorities are trying to keep infection chains short, leading to curtailed clusters. In the protection stage the strategy will change to using direct measures to protect vulnerable persons from becoming infected. The mitigation stage will eventually try to avoid spikes of intensive treatment in order to maintain medical services.
Criticism[edit source | edit]
As early as January 2020, the German Bundestag was fully informed about the dangers of the global spread of a coronavirus pandemic. A risk analysis predicted how dangerous a global coronavirus outbreak could be. It stated that "children [...] have [...] minor disease progressions" and that the risk of death of "over-65-year-olds [is] at 50%". It further stated that a "vaccine" is "unavailable", so all the more important is the "use of protective equipment such as protective masks, goggles and gloves". The Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (BBK) never set up appropriate stores or had talks with manufacturers and suppliers to prepare for such a situation.
Government reactions[edit source | edit]
January[edit source | edit]
On 22 January 2020, the German government considered the spread of COVID-19 as a "very low health risk" for Germans and the virus in general as "far less dangerous" than SARS. New travel advisories would not be necessary.
On 27 January, after the first infections in Germany, the government continued to regard the probability of a spread as "very low". Even if individual cases emerged, authorities would be able to treat them.
At a press conference on 28 January, the Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, said he was worrying only about conspiracy theories that were circulating on the Internet, and that the Federal Government would counter this problem through full transparency. Hotlines were established to calm down worried callers. After a case was suspected in a Lufthansa plane, the company suspended all flights to China.
On 29 January, reports surged that masks were sold out. The government ordered pilots of flights from China to describe the health status of their passengers and ordered passengers to fill in a contact document. The government and health authorities expected more isolated cases but were confident to prevent further spread.
On 30 January, on national television a virologist referred to the government calling the flu wave of 2018 more dangerous than coronavirus as negligent and downplaying.
February[edit source | edit]
On 1 February 2020, German Health Minister Spahn warned that people infected with the Coronavirus and their contacts might be stigmatised and be socially excluded. He emphasised that the Germans evacuated from China would all be healthy.
On 13 February, at a meeting of EU Health Ministers, German Health Minister Spahn dismissed travel restrictions from or to China by single member states. He decidedly rejected measuring the temperature of inbound travellers.
On 18 February, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas had 8.4 tons of protective gear and clothing as well as disinfectants sent to China. This was the second shipment after Germany had sent 5.4 tons of it to China during the evacuation of the Germans.
On 25 February, NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Tod D. Wolters, was asked by senators if there were plans for restricting U.S. troop travel to other countries apart from Italy. He pointed to Germany as a potential candidate. AfD politician Alice Weidel demanded closing borders in Europe.
On 26 February, following the confirmation of multiple COVID-19 cases in North Rhine-Westphalia, Heinsberg initiated closure of schools, swimming pools, libraries and the town hall until 2 March. Games and training for FC Wegberg-Beeck were suspended. The international German Open Badminton in Mülheim was cancelled. The Cologne-Wahn military airport was temporarily closed. The German government opted not to implement travel restrictions on Italy over the coronavirus pandemic there. It also considered itself "far from" issuing a travel warning for the country, which would have enabled free cancellation of trips.
On 28 February, Germany first entered the top ten of countries that had the highest number of coronavirus infections as number nine, in Europe second only to Italy. ITB Berlin was cancelled by its organisers. Heinsberg extended closure of daycare facilities and schools to 6 March. The officials imposed a 14-day home isolation for people who had had direct contacts with individuals in the current cases as well as people who showed flu symptoms. Lufthansa cut the number of short- and medium-haul flights by up to 25%, and removed multiple long-haul routes resulting in 23 long-haul aircraft being taken out of operation. On the same day, Germany enacted new health security measures to include regulations for air and sea travel, requiring passengers from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran to report their health status before entry. Train railway companies must report passengers with symptoms to authorities and the federal police would step up checks within 30 kilometres of the border. The government also declared it would prepare a central acquisition of protection masks and suits to create a reserve, that not all events should be cancelled and that its crisis team would from then on meet twice a week.
On 29 February, it was reported that supermarket chains, such as Aldi and Lidl, had seen an increase in demand, particularly for tinned food, noodles, toilet paper (whose sales rose by 700% from February to March) and disinfectants. The Ministry of Health of North Rhine-Westphalia advised against panic buying, especially of masks, medications and disinfectants, to leave them for those really in need, assuring there would be no shortage of supply even in the event of a quarantine. A day earlier, after recent drastic price hikes and shortages especially of masks, medications and disinfectants which were the result of a steep increase in demand, calls had been made to consumers to leave these products for hospitals and medical practices.
March[edit source | edit]
1–7 March[edit source | edit]
On 1 March, the number of confirmed infections almost doubled within one day. German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, expressed his optimism that a vaccine would be available by the end of the year. The Finance Minister, Olaf Scholz, said the government was prepared for a stimulus package to mitigate the economical impact. The Health Minister, Jens Spahn, recommended that people with symptoms of a cold should avoid mass events.
On 2 March, the German Robert Koch Institute raised its threat level for Germany to "moderate" and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control raised its threat level for Europe from "moderate" to "high". The German Health Minister dismissed the closure of borders or companies or ending large events or direct flights between China and Germany as unnecessary or inappropriate. Germany sent lab equipment, protection suits, and gloves for the coronavirus in Iran.
On 3 March, the German National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, the Bavarian State Chamber of Medicine, the Bavarian Association of Paediatricians, and the Association of General Practitioners of Berlin and Brandenburg reported a lack of protection gear to handle COVID-19 cases. The Leipzig Book Fair cancelled the exhibition planned for mid-March. Markus Söder, Minister President of Bavaria and leader of the CSU, and the German Minister for Economics, Peter Altmaier, pushed for financial help for companies affected by the virus.
On 4 March, the crisis team considered the acquisition of more protection gear as an "extraordinary urgency". Germany prohibited the export of protection masks, gloves, and suits. North Rhine-Westphalia declared to order one million masks. A parliamentary discussion took place. The Health Minister, Spahn, warned that the consequences of fear could be far worse than the virus itself. Spokespersons of Greens and FDP praised the government for its management of the crisis. AfD-leader Weidel disagreed and also proposed measuring fever at airports. SPD health policymaker Bärbel Bas said measuring fever made no sense because not all infected had it. Israel ordered a 14-day quarantine for all travellers from Germany and four other European countries.
To address the severe shortage of hand disinfectants, the Federal Agency for Chemicals within the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued a general decree on 4 March which allowed pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies to produce and sell products based on isopropyl alcohol for this purpose.
On 5 March, the German Federal Office for Citizen Protection and Disaster Support (BBK) said the spread in Germany was "no catastrophe" and that citizens should prepare for real catastrophes instead. The leader of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom, expressed concern that some countries showed an unwillingness to act or gave up. He admonished all countries to raise their commitment to the level of the threat.
On 6 March, the German Health Minister Spahn ruled out "any measure leading to restrictions on travel" within the European Union and spoke out against closing all schools and universities in Germany. Spahn recommended not to make unnecessary travels and suggested people coming from risk areas should stay at home. Spahn participated in a meeting with the other European Health Ministers to discuss the crisis. The EU and Robert Koch Institute emphasised that masks and disinfectants should not be used by healthy private persons.
8–14 March[edit source | edit]
On 8 March, the German Health Minister recommended to cancel events of more than 1000 attendees for the time being. The Deutsche Fußball Liga announced to continue the season of its soccer leagues until its regular end in mid-May. Poland announced random temperature checks for bus passengers from Germany near a border crossing starting the next day.
On 9 March, Germany reported the first deaths. The number of COVID-19 infections had nearly doubled to more than 1200 within the last few days, which put pressure on the government to act. Angela Merkel's administration announced measures to cushion the economic blow. Merkel, who had publicly kept a low profile regarding the outbreak, emphasised it was important to slow down the spread and buy time. The government's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said citizens could be "confident that the whole Federal Government, with the Chancellor at the helm, is doing everything possible to contain the spread of this virus". The Health Minister emphasised the responsibility of each individual to slow down spread and ruled out preemptive closing of daycare centres or schools.
On 10 March, Chancellor Merkel announced that between 60 and 70 per cent of Germans would get the virus, an estimate already made nine days earlier by the head virologist of the Charité, Christian Drosten. In reaction to a general ban on events with more than 1,000 participants put into immediate effect, Germany's Ice Hockey league DEL announced immediate cancellation of the 2019–2020 season, and that the championship title would remain vacant. Several matches of the soccer leagues, including Bundesliga derbies would be played behind closed doors, a first in the 57-year history of the Bundesliga. Berlin mayor Michael Müller (SPD) disagreed and said mass events should not be cancelled preemptively and expected the sold-out soccer match between Union Berlin and FC Bayern Munich on 14 March not to be behind closed doors.
On 11 March, having faced accusations of inaction the previous days, Merkel took the unusual step of dedicating an entire press conference on the topic of the COVID-19 crisis. She emphasised "We will do the necessary, as a country and in the European Union". She announced liquidity support for companies, especially via the German development bank KfW, to be realised before the week was over. She insisted again on not closing borders. Merkel recommended everyone avoid shaking hands, for example by looking a second longer and smiling instead. The German health minister added that mouth protection and disinfectants were needless for individuals and that it was enough to wash hands with soap rigorously. The first member of the Bundestag to be tested positive was FDP politician Hagen Reinhold. Several members of the Bundestag for the SPD were placed under quarantine, including epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach, after attending a meeting on 2 March with a staff member of the German Ministry of Justice later testing positive for coronavirus.
On 12 March, U.S. President Trump announced a 30-day travel ban for foreigners who travelled from Schengen area states, including Germany, effective 13 March 23:59 EDT. German foreign politicians were caught by surprise by the travel ban and criticised that it was not coordinated with them. They complained that the United Kingdom was not included. Although neighbouring countries had already closed schools, the German minister of education, Anja Karliczek rejected a nationwide closure of schools, while saying the decision would need to be re-assessed daily as the pandemic evolved. The Kultusministerkonferenz debated whether the virus could threaten the upcoming Abitur school-leaving examination. Its director, Stefanie Hubig, decided the oral examinations in Rhineland-Palatinate between 16 and 25 March would take place according to plan. She also recommended cancelling class trips to risk areas.
On 13 March 14 of the 16 German federal states decided to close their schools and nurseries for the next few weeks. Germany's neighbours Czech Republic, Poland and Denmark closed their borders. Germany rushed to order 10,000 ventilators from Drägerwerk for intensive respiratory care, twice the order size of Italy and equivalent to the production of a whole year. Germany entered talks for softening its export stop of protective gear for other European Union states. The government decided to give financial support to artists, private cultural institutions and event companies that struggle in the crisis. Scholz and Altmeier assured unlimited credits to all companies of any size. Bundesliga announced that all soccer matches would be postponed until at least 2 April.
On 14 March, the number of confirmed infections had increased to 4,585, including nine fatalities. Several federal states widened their measures to limit public activities. For example, Berlin, Schleswig-Holstein and Saarland closed bars among other leisure venues. Cologne forbid all events in the city centre. Shops noted a great increase in demand for provisions and sanitary products. An FDP member of Bundestag, Thomas Sattelberger, went public on Twitter that he was also infected as he criticised a video created by Germany's largest public broadcaster, ARD. The video presented COVID-19 as a justified reflex of nature by preferentially killing the old in the developed world, who ruined the planet with global warming and turbocapitalism, to the effect of less pollution and overpopulation. The authors of the much-criticized video later apologised for hurting feelings and defended their work stressing it was a satire using exaggeration.
15–21 March[edit source | edit]
On 15 March, local elections in Bavaria took place amid the crisis. Many election workers dropped out so that the elections were "acutely threatened" and teachers had to be conscripted on one day's notice. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced to shut down the borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Luxembourg. The measure would begin on Monday and the transportation of goods and commuters would be exempt. Deutsche Bahn decided to reduce its regional traffic and, to protect its staff, suspended further ticket inspections.
On 16 March, the state of Bavaria declared a state of emergency for 14 days and introduced measures to limit public movement and provide additional funds for medicine supplies. Bavarian minister president Markus Söder ordered closures of all sports and leisure facilities starting on 17 March. Restaurants were ordered to limit their dine-in opening hours to before 3:00 pm; to ensure a minimum distance of 1.5 metres between guests; and to accommodate a maximum of 30 guests. Supermarkets, chemist's shops, banks, pet shops, and all businesses that sell essential basic needs are allowed extended opening times including on Sundays, while non-essential shops are to be closed at all times. After public outrage over flights from Iran still landing in Germany without tests or quarantine, the German Ministry of Transport stopped all flights from Iran and China. Italian scientists, including virologist Roberto Burioni, warned Germany against underestimating the danger and the director of Eurac Research said Germany needed a lockdown or the numbers would go out of control. In the evening, Merkel announced measures similar to Bavaria for the entire country, agreed on by all federal states and the ruling coalition. This also includes a prohibition on travelling in coaches, attending religious meetings, visiting playgrounds or engaging in tourism. The government stressed it was no "shutdown".
On 17 March, the Robert Koch Institute raised the health threat risk for COVID-19 in Germany to "high". Limits on the testing capacity and a delay of three to four days meant reported numbers were significantly lower than the actual ones. Employment agencies and job centres reported a tenfold increase in calls and had to relax sanctions. Berlin announced the plan to construct a hospital with the Bundeswehr for housing 1000 beds for COVID-19 patients. The Federal and State Governments agreed on a new emergency plan for German hospitals which includes doubling the current capacity of 28,000 intensive care beds, of which 25,000 are equipped with ventilation. After a man tested positive in a refugee centre in Suhl, a quarantine led to days of protest, physical resistance and escape attempts over fences or the sewage system. In an SEK operation with protection suits and tanks, 200 police forces calmed the situation and relocated 17 offenders. The Interior Minister of Lower Saxony warned that untrue news could trigger panic buying and conflicts, and demanded laws to punish publishing wrong information regarding the supply situation, including the medical one, or aspects of the virus. In the evening, Merkel announced that she and other EU leaders had decided on an immediate travel ban into the European Union for 30 days for non-EU citizens. She also said the European Commission began to start a collective tender for medical gear.
On 18 March, Germany widened its travel restrictions to EU citizens from Italy, Switzerland, Denmark, Luxembourg and Spain, who had up to that time been able to arrive by flight or ship. Germany still received flights from Iran and China due to bilateral agreements, although the German ministry of transportation had said two days earlier it would forbid passenger flights from there. The passengers were not tested for the virus and their temperatures were not taken due to the absence of administrative orders. The head of the Robert Koch Institute warned that the number of infected could rise to up to ten million in two months unless social contacts were reduced significantly, and called for a minimum distance of 1.5 metres to be maintained in all direct contact. The government began to bring back thousands of German travellers stranded in non-EU countries with charter flights. The public health insurance companies assured to cover all expenses related to the crisis with no limitation.
On 19 March, discussions of the Minister presidents of the German states and Merkel regarding a curfew were set for 22 March. A German manufacturer of breathing masks for hospitals and doctors complained that his warnings in early February that masks were selling out and his offer to reserve masks for hospitals had remained unanswered by the health ministry. The ministry explained to the press that they had received the messages but deemed itself not responsible and that the numerous offers could not be replied to due to prioritisation. Some hospitals reported they were already facing shortages of protective gears. A survey revealed that more than 80% of the doctors in private practice reported a lack of protective equipment.
On 20 March, Bavaria was the first state to declare a curfew, inspired by and identical to Austria, where it had been implemented four days before. The Bavarian curfew would begin at midnight and fine violators up to €25,000. It would remain permitted to go to work as well as to supermarkets, medics and pharmacies, under the condition that the trip is solitary or with housemates. Under the same condition, it is also permitted to do sports outside; to visit the life partner or aged, sick or disabled people who do not live in a facility; and to help others in general or provide for animals. Restaurants except drive-ins and for take-away, DIY shops and hairdressers would be shut down. The Federal government scheduled a discussion for 22 March to decide on a nationwide curfew and still faced opposition from the German Association of Towns and Municipalities and reservations, among others from the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, or Minister President of Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow. Annalena Baerbock, chairwoman of the Greens, criticised Bavaria's introduction of the curfew as counter-productive, saying there should not be a competition of which federal state is the fastest and strictest and that there would already be a round of voting on this question with all the federal states and the Chancellor in two days. Starting also at midnight, the state of Saarland, a region close France's badly affected Grand Est region, also put a similar curfew into place. Lufthansa donated 920,000 breathing masks to the health authorities.
On 21 March, after more and more residents of refugee centres tested positive for the virus, asylum seekers were unsettled. In Suhl, some threw stones at the police, threatened to set the residence on fire, and used children as human shields. Refugee organisations demanded smaller residencies, including accommodation in hotels and hostels. The government drafted a change to the German Protection against Infection Act to allow the federal government more power over the federal states. Among others it would allow the health ministry to prohibit border crossings, track the contacts of infected persons and enlist doctors, medicine students and other health care workers in the efforts against an infectious disease.
According to data collected on 17–18 March 2020 spending behaviour in a sample of 2500 people in Germany, with an age range from 16 to 65 years confirmed panic buying, showing a 35% increase in the purchase of noodles, 34% increase in canned food, and sanitiser (+33%), a 30% increase in frozen food, mineral water and soap, as well as a slightly lower degree in prepackaged meals (+8%), toilet paper 26%, facial tissue +24% and medication +19%.
22–29 March[edit source | edit]
On 22 March, the government and the federal states agreed for at least two weeks to forbid gatherings of more than two people and require a minimum distance of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) between people in public except for families, partners or people living in the same household. Restaurants and services like hairdressers were to be closed. Individual states and districts were allowed to impose stricter measures than these. Saxony joined Bavaria and the Saarland in prohibiting residents from leaving their dwellings except for good reasons, which are similar to the ones in the other two states; outdoor exercise is permitted under the new rules only alone or in groups of maximal five members of the same household.
Chancellor Merkel was quarantined because the physician who had vaccinated her two days earlier tested positive. Volkswagen bought medical equipment in China in a double-digit million euro range to donate it in Germany and intends to produce masks.
On 23 March, the government decided on a financial aid package totalling around 750 billion Euros taking on new debt for the first time since 2013, to mitigate the damage of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. Stephan Pusch, the District Administrator of Heinsberg, asked the Chinese president for help with protective equipment, because the reserve of masks and protective gowns would last only a few more days. Hospitals and doctors urged the government again to address the lack of masks and other protection gear. Berlin received 8000 masks from the nation's central provisioning, which would mean only one mask for every doctor's practice. Of the ten million masks promised by Federal Health Minister Spahn, only 150,000 had arrived so far. A transport plane arrived with masks and coronavirus test kits donated by Alibaba. Other Chinese tech companies like Oppo and Xiaomi also donated masks. Beiersdorf delivered 6000 litres of disinfectants as part of a larger donation of 500 tons.
On 24 March, a delivery of 6 million protective masks of type FFP-2 ordered by the German central provisioning to protect health workers was reported missing at an airport in Kenya. They had been produced by a German company and it was unclear why they had been in Kenya. 10 million protective masks had been ordered by the central provisioning altogether. The lack of protective equipment, especially of face masks and disinfectants, led hospitals to re-use disposable masks. Undertakers requested protective equipment and raising their status to being relevant for the system to get priority access to protective gear. Most dentists practices did not have FFP-2 masks and some considered closing their practices. Several alcohol manufacturers started to deliver disinfectants or alcohol to pharmacies and hospitals. Klosterfrau Healthcare announced to donate 100,000 litres of disinfectants and Jägermeister provided 50,000 litres of alcohol for producing disinfectants. As of late March, Deutsche Krankenhaus-Gesellschaft (DKG) reported an estimated number of 28,000 intensive care beds, of which 20,000 had respiratory support. 70 to 80 percent were occupied by non-COVID-19 patients. A project to find out the exact percentage of free intensive care beds in Germany had been started by Deutsche Interdisziplinäre Vereinigung für Intensiv- und Notfallmedizin (DIVI) and half of all hospitals joined it.
On 25 March, the German Bundestag approved, with a large majority, the stimulus package which the government had decided on two days earlier. It also suspended the constitutionally enshrined debt brake to approve the supplementary government budget of 156 billion euros. The Kultusministerkonferenz decided against cancelling the Abitur school-leaving examinations, which were currently under way in Hessen and Rhineland-Palatinate. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) warned that the epidemic had only just begun in Germany.
On 26 March, Robert Bosch GmbH announced it had developed a new COVID-19 test system, which could diagnose whether a patient was infected in less than 2.5 hours instead of days and could be run automatically at the point of care. According to Bosch, the test would be available in Germany in April and could check for 10 respiratory pathogens simultaneously with an accuracy of more than 95%. At night, it was reported the Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, had decided to widen the scope of the entry restrictions, which had previously covered other EU- and non-EU citizens, to also prohibit asylum seekers from entering.
Drägerwerk announced that the first respiratory devices of a total order of 10,000 by the health ministry were finished, but it was unclear where to deliver them. The fulfilment of the order would extend over a whole year as the company had received many orders from other countries and the German government had not asked them to be supplied first. Drägerwerk had doubled its production of breathing masks and urged Germany to maintain a reserve of masks in the future.
On 29 March, in Berlin and Hamburg two demonstrations for the adoption of more refugees were considered a violation of the contact ban and were dispersed by police forces. Adidas, Deichmann, H&M and many other retail companies which had their shops closed as part of the government restrictions announced that they planned to suspend rent payment according to the new law granting temporary relief during the corona crisis. Christine Lambrecht, called it "indecent and unacceptable" and Bundestag member Florian Post (SPD) published a video of himself burning an Adidas shirt and calling for a boycott of the company. On the morning of 28 March the body of Hesse's finance minister Thomas Schäfer was found next to the Cologne–Frankfurt high-speed rail line near Hochheim am Main; Volker Bouffier suspected his suicide resulted from worries about the future in the wake of the corona crisis crushing him.
30 March – 5 April[edit source | edit]
On 31 March, Jena was the first bigger German city to announce an obligation to wear masks, or makeshift masks including scarves, in supermarkets, public transport, and buildings with public traffic. Minister president of Bavaria, Markus Söder, said the problem of acquisition of masks needed to be solved before discussing an obligation to wear masks, and demanded a national emergency production of protective masks. Intensive care physicians criticised the lack of protective clothing in nursing services, clinics and doctors' practices as a state failure.
On 1 April, the project of a European Coronavirus app was publicised that, unlike apps of other countries, could satisfy the requirements of the EU's stringent data protection, releasable in Germany around 16 April. The project, titled Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), involved eight European countries and, on the German side, participation came from the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Robert Koch Institute, Technical University of Berlin, TU Dresden, University of Erfurt, Vodafone Germany and (for testing) Bundeswehr. The app would use Bluetooth to register close contact to other people with the app anonymously and warn the user when a person who had previously been in close contact officially registered an infection. Most German politicians demanded that public usage should be voluntary.
On 1 April, Health minister Jens Spahn forbade flights from Iran, effective immediately, on the basis of the new Infection Protection Act. Chancellor Merkel extended the social distancing measures to 19 April and asked people not to travel during the Easter holidays.
On 2 April, the Robert Koch Institute changed its previous recommendation that only people with symptoms should wear masks to also include people without symptoms. A general obligation to wear masks in public, not supported by the federal government and most regional governments, was discussed. It faced the counter-argument of general shortages of protection gear that could not even guarantee supply for the health care and maintenance system. At least 2,300 of German medical personnel in hospitals were confirmed to have contracted Sars-CoV-2. The number of cases from other medical sectors was not systematically collected and thus not known; most federal state governments and the Federal Health Ministry replied to a team of investigating journalists that no information could be given. In Bavaria, where 244 medical practices had been closed due to quarantine (141), lack of protection gear (82) and a lack of childcare (21), the Bavarian State Ministry for Health and Care instructed its health departments not to answer the request for information.
April[edit source | edit]
6–12 April[edit source | edit]
On 7 April, the Robert Koch Institute, in partnership with healthtech startup Thryve, launched the app Corona-Datenspende (Corona Data Donation) for voluntary consensual use by the German public to help monitor the spread of COVID-19 and analyse the effectiveness of measures taken against the pandemic. The app was designed to be used with a range of smartwatches and fitness trackers to share anonymised health data for scientific purposes. Project leader Dirk Brockmann said he hoped 100,000 people would sign up. Later that day, the RKI announced that more than 50,000 users had downloaded the app.
A preliminary result, published on 9 April, from a study by the University of Bonn, based on a sample from 1,000 residents of Gangelt in Heinsberg district, North Rhein-Westphalia (NRW) showed that two percent of its population were infected, while 15 percent of the residents have developed antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, regardless of whether they showed any symptoms. This constitutes a mortality rate of 0.37 percent, significantly below the 0.9 percent which Imperial College of the UK had estimated, or the 0.66 percent found in a revised study last week. Several experts criticised that the Heinsberg study had been made public initially through a press conference – at which NRW Minister President Armin Laschet was also present – and expressed doubts about the method of statistical sampling used in the study, as well as other aspects.
13–19 April[edit source | edit]
On 13 April, the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, published its third ad hoc statement on the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany. The statement, which supplements its two predecessors, described strategies for a stepwise lifting or modification of measures against the pandemic, taking into account psychological, social, legal, pedagogic and economic aspects. Re-opening of classroom primary and lower-level secondary education as soon as feasible, with observation of hygiene and physical distancing measures, was recommended. The statement did not contain a timeframe for implementing its recommendations. Already before the release of the statement, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the recommendations of the report would be "very important" in political decision-making regarding the pandemic.
On 15 April, after a video conference with the Minister Presidents of the 16 Federal states, Chancellor Merkel said Germany had achieved "fragile intermediate success" in slowing the spread of the virus, but restrictions of public life remained key to preventing the spread of the virus from accelerating again. Shops with a retail space of up to 800 square metres, as well as bookshops, bike stores and car dealerships, would be allowed to reopen to the public on 20 April, providing they followed specified conditions of distancing and hygiene. Schools would start opening on 4 May, as well as hair salons, the latter under particularly strict conditions. It was agreed that large cultural events would not be allowed before 31 August. Other restrictions on social life, which had been imposed on 22 March – including the ban on gatherings of more than two people – were extended until at least 3 May. Merkel urgently recommended people to wear protective masks on public transport and while shopping, but stopped short of making them mandatory.
On 16 April, Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder said Oktoberfest would most likely be cancelled. While the government and state governors started to reach agreement to relax some aspects of the social distancing protocols, large events would be banned until at least 31 August.
20–26 April[edit source | edit]
On 20 April, as shops started to reopen – with differences from state to state in the level of restrictions – Chancellor Merkel thanked Germans for adhering, on the whole, to advice on staying at home and to physical distancing rules. At the same time, she warned that the country continued to be "at the start of this pandemic". If infections were to resurge, which would be visible after two weeks, another shutdown would follow, an outcome which had to be prevented for the sake of the economy.
On 21 April, Bavarian State Premier Söder announced that Oktoberfest would be cancelled.
27 April – 3 May[edit source | edit]
In the public debate on the question of whether and when the social distancing measures enacted in the previous weeks could be relaxed, the effective reproduction number R continued to play a major role. In its daily bulletins of 26–28 April, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) estimated the value of R as 0.9, 1.0, and 0.9 respectively; it had been as low as 0.7 in mid-April. On 28 April, RKI president Wieler clarified that the 27 April value had been rounded up from a value of 0.96. The respective upper end-points of the confidence intervals (at the 95 per cent level) for the estimates of R were 1.1, 1.1, and 1.0.
At the 28 April press conference, Wieler also warned of pinning too many expectations on a single indicator such as R, as this was "only one index among many". He appealed to the public to apply physical distancing even as the federal and state governments began to relax restrictions on social movement, to "preserve" the success that had been achieved to date in the fighting the pandemic.
For the first time in its 70-year history, the German Trade Union Confederation had cancelled its traditional demonstrations throughout Germany on 1 May, holding instead a three-hour online streaming event. Nevertheless, on that day a number of authorised and unauthorised gatherings took place in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Frankfurt and other German cities. In Berlin, 27 authorised protests were held, each capped at a maximum of 20 participants. On May Day in Kreuzberg, several thousand protesters or spectators took part in demonstrations which, while unauthorised, were largely left alone by the police. Most of those gathered appeared to keep a safe distance from each other; however, from the early evening onwards, many hundreds were observed not to do so, leading Berlin's Senator for the Interior Andreas Geisel to sharply condemn the protesters for their "geballte Unvernunft" ("bunched-up lack of common sense"). After nightfall, several members of the police force were injured, who arrested 209 people. In Hamburg, police dissolved an unauthorised assembly of 350 people at Reeperbahn and later another one at Sternschanze, where some rioters threw objects at them. An assembly in Leipzig which, according to preliminary estimates by police, drew more than 200 participants, received a spontaneous permit by authorities.
After a summit between Angela Merkel and state leaders on 30 April, the federal government allowed opening of museums, monuments, botanical gardens and zoos, and religious services under strict social distancing conditions.
May[edit source | edit]
4–10 May[edit source | edit]
On 4 May, the district of Coesfeld in North Rhine-Westphalia recorded 581 infections, an increase by 53 cases from two days earlier. It was reported that a large part of this increase had come from a proactive case tracing and testing of employees at a meat factory in Coesfeld city by the district health office. The plant was allowed to continue to operate under tight supervision by the office.
On a conference call between Chancellor Angela Merkel and 16 state premiers on 6 May, Merkel said that the goal of slowing down the virus had been achieved and that the first phase of the pandemic was over, while asking everyone to remain cautious so as not to cause a second wave. At the same time, the federal government announced the lifting of more restrictions, while contact limitations would remain until 5 June. Under the newly agreed conditions, a maximum of two different households can meet in public. All shops are allowed to open, schools and kindergartens may open in phases, people in care homes are allowed visits from one permanent contact person, outdoor sports without physical contact can resume, and Bundesliga matches may resume starting from 15 May, behind closed doors. The decision on specific opening dates, including those for the restaurant sector, has been left to individual states. Local governments were authorised to reimpose restrictions immediately in case of a new wave of cases reaching 50 per 100,000 people within 7 days in a locality.
On 7 May, a test of 200 employees at the Coesfeld meat processing plant, where cases had first been reported on 4 May, revealed 151 were positive for COVID-19. North Rhine-Westphalia State Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann said that the shared accommodation of workers in tight quarters was a possibly reason for the outbreak. He also stated that the number of new infections in Coesfeld district had been 61 per 100,000 people over the previous week. The plant was closed until further notice, while schools and day care facilities in the district were allowed to open as planned on 11 May. On 9 May, the RKI gave the number of infections in the Coesfeld district in the past week as 76 cases per 100,000, while all other districts in North Rhine-Westphalia were reported to have remained considerably below the government-set threshold of 50 cases per 100,000.
By the afternoon of 10 May, five locations in Germany reported an exceedance of the threshold: besides Coesfeld, these were the city of Rosenheim in Bavaria (the latter having had a first exceedance on 7 May); the districts Greiz and Sonneberg in Thuringia; and the district Steinburg in Schleswig-Holstein.
11–17 May[edit source | edit]
On 13 May, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced that the border controls with several neighbouring countries would be eased with effect from 15 May. On that day, controls at the border to Luxembourg would be scrapped, and the goal would be to have free travel to Austria, France, and Switzerland from 15 June.
Impact[edit source | edit]
Economy[edit source | edit]
Germany officially entered a recession given that its economy contracted 2.2% during the first quarter of 2020.
As of 1 April, almost half a million companies in Germany had sent their workers on a government-subsidized short-time working scheme known as Kurzarbeit. The German short-time work compensation scheme is similar to schemes in France and Britain.
On 8 April, Germany reverted a travel ban for seasonal agricultural workers, allowing 80,000 Eastern Europeans to enter between April and May to harvest seasonal foods.
Mask shortage[edit source | edit]
In March, car manufacturers announced donations of several hundred thousand masks to hospitals, and health authorities. Daimler donated 110,000 masks of their pandemic protection reserve and BMW donated 100,000 breathing masks. Volkswagen announced a donation of 200,000 masks of FFP-2 and FFP-3 types and were looking into manufacturing medical equipment parts. On 8 April, the CEO of BMW, Oliver Zipse, announced the production of FFP2 masks both for the general public and for its workers with a target of hundred of thousands of masks each day, together with the donation to Bavaria of two million simpler masks within the following two weeks. On 28 March, more than three million protective masks bought by Volkswagen arrived at Frankfurt airport from Shanghai. They were the first shipment of a larger donation of medical equipment worth 40 million Euros which were brought to hospitals and federal agencies in Hesse and Lower Saxony.
As stocks of protective gear have gone down, nations have been competing to obtain supplies with increasing urgency. Mask-related disputes were reported between Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Germany also was in dispute with Italian authorities over 830,000 masks destined for Italy. A German agent was also accused of paying extra for two million masks that had been contracted by Slovenia.
On 3 April, Berlin's Senator of the Interior, Andreas Geisel, accused United States agents of appropriating a shipment of 200,000 3M-made face masks meant for Berlin police from the airport in Bangkok. Andreas Geisel considered it an "act of modern piracy", SPD acting chairman Rolf Mützenich asked for an investigation and a response from the government, and Berlin mayor Michael Müller blamed Trump for and called it "inhuman and unacceptable". However, these claims were rejected by 3M officials, who said they have "no records of an order for respiratory masks from China for the Berlin police" and Berlin police later admitted the shipment was not seized by U.S. authorities, but was said to have been bought at a better price, possibly by a German dealer or China. As a result, Berlin opposition Burkard Dregger accused the Berlin senate of deception intended to cover up their failure to provide the masks. Politico Europe reported that "the Berliners are taking a page straight out of the Trump playbook and not letting facts get in the way of a good story."
Former ARD Southeast Asia correspondent Paul Hampel claimed he had contacted the Head of the Chancellery, Helge Braun, on 1 April regarding an opportunity to buy 50 million masks from a business contact in Hong Kong. He said on 3 April he had still not received a definite answer from the Federal Chancellery and that with the increasing demand the opportunity might go elsewhere. German officials reported that U.S. buyers were paying far above the market price and were outbidding European buyers for masks.
Statistics[edit source | edit]
See also[edit source | edit]
- 2020 in Germany
- COVID-19 pandemic in Europe
- COVID-19 pandemic by country and territory
- National responses to the COVID-19 pandemic
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- Lough, Richard; Rinke, Andreas (3 April 2020). "U.S. coronavirus supply spree sparks outrage among allies". Reuters. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
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Further reading[edit source | edit]
- Lua error: Internal error: The interpreter has terminated with signal "9". Christian Drosten: "Wir müssen jetzt die Fälle senken. Sonst schaffen wir es nicht" | ZEIT ONLINE
[edit source | edit]
- Lua error: Internal error: The interpreter has terminated with signal "9".
- Coronavirus in Deutschland Real-time map with numbers from the 401 districts of Germany, and statistics for other countries
- Coronavirus: Echtzeit-Karte zeigt Zahl der Infektionen in Deutschland, Europa und weltweit – map with several statistics on the virus in Germany and worldwide
- CoronaMapper – map with various updated statistics
- Esri (German): COVID-19 Dashboard (RKI-Data for States and Districts)
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