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Germany has not faced such a crisis since World War II

27 March, 2020 07:01:43
Germany has not faced such a crisis since World War II

Saibal Giri is an engineer by qualification. Münchener by profession, Bong by emotions and Technophile by habit.

With 83 million, Germany’s population is not only the highest in Europe the density is higher than the worst affected countries of Italy, France and Spain. But the more scary fact lies beneath the surface. With 21% of this population over 65years, Germany’s risk of protecting the population is higher than anyone else. On a comparative scale, West Bengal has 40% more population to deal with than Germany. But with the demographic dividend that India has, the vulnerable population in West Bengal is perhaps just ~8 million compared to the ~18 million Germans who are over 65 years.  This is the fundamental statistics that can push Germany over the edge of the corona cliff.   

Angela Merkel therefore does not sugarcoat her words. More so, when Robert Koch Institute has provided her with ominous simulations. She broke the bad news upfront - upto 70% of the population might get infected and the only option at hand is to slow the spread and relax the stress on the healthcare systems. She followed it up with her rare national TV broadcast a week later - Germany has never faced such a crisis since World War II. Coming from a Chancellor who grew behind the walls in East Berlin, weathered the 2008 financial crisis by stimulating the internal economy and handled the refugee crisis unfazed by criticism this means that, fight with an enemy that exist as droplets is akin to Arnold Schwarzenegger hunting the unknown Predator (1987).  

  Under social distancing

I started to follow the numbers more closely since the Italian lockdown. By that time China was five weeks into lockdown already, but WHO was still hesitating to call the pandemic. Rest of Europe still appeared relatively calm - with France, Germany and Spain still reporting in hundreds in the first week of March. India celebrated Holi quite unrestricted, that joie de vivre also showed in overseas Indians even in this hotbed of Corona contagion. But just over two weeks later, we are under a quasi lockdown in Germany, India under a complete lockdown for 21 days. Statistics have fooled mankind again, it revealed the substantial in the early days but concealed the vital that, the next progression of infections would be exponentially geometric and not arithmetic. In hindsight, the same statistics is being used to suggest avoiding the mistakes by Italy and Iran, or the unmanageable situation unfolding in Spain.

To explain the probable destiny of Germany, one needs to understand Italy. Italy still retains the old world charm with honking traffic and close knit family structure where three generations live under the same roof. Parallels can be drawn to India but look no further than Mario Puzo’s classic novel, where Vito Corleone still sits at the head of a long table to dine with the family. On a personal front, I have seen my own Italian colleague travel all the way from Ticino in Switzerland to Bari every weekend to visit his ailing father. This societal cohesion combined with the initial negligence during the community spread has perhaps been the single largest factor for the Italian tragedy.

Pray for all..

For the better or the worse, German society is still polarized between age groups. It is the German spirit of resilience and regimen that drives senior citizens to lead a self reliant lifestyle supported by the state. My 78 year old neighbour still puts more hours in his garden and housekeeping alone, than perhaps two adults in our house can physically. And the practice of social distance is nowhere more profound than here, where the empty seat in a public transport goes unoccupied to respect the senior’s wish for space.

It might be pure luck or it might be the above, but that explains why Germany’s 32000+ COVID-19 cases are around the medien age of 46 and not yet affected the vulnerable population of 65+. Which essentially also explains why critical cases are still just 23, and deaths are still in low three digits.           

Germany claims also to be able to handle 150000 tests per week, which enables early diagnosis and prioritizes critical care for the needy. With an official number of just 25000 intensive care units available and the total cases already crossing that number, it is a competition to cure the contagion while it is at the mild stage without needing intensive hospitalcare. And till now this strategy seem to have worked, but the attacks are relentlessly incoming .

Pray for all..

Robert Koch Institute, named after the famed microbiologist, works with the mission to protect and improve the health of the German population. While Germany banks on their wisdom for this strategy to work with sustainability, it will also hope that one of Koch’s own postulates also be a force multiplier to this process – acquired immunity.   

Germany might have never faced such a crisis since World War II, and this time Germany has the wherewithal not let itself be the epicenter, either.

Story Tag:
  • Corona virus

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