Bonn · While thousands of people have already died in Spain and Italy as a result of the novel coronavirus, there are still comparatively few deaths in Germany. Two scientists from the University of Bonn now provide an explanation for the difference in death rates.
The coronavirus has long since arrived in Europe. But while countries such as Italy and Spain have already suffered several thousand deaths, the virus seems to be comparatively mild in Germany: So far, according to figures from the Robert Koch Institute, less than 0.5 per cent of people in Germany have died from COVID-19. Virologist Christian Drosten sees the high number of tests carried out in Germany as a possible reason for the comparatively low death rate. Professors Moritz Kuhn and Christian Bayer from the University of Bonn provide another possible explanation for the substantially difference death rates.
According to the university, the two economists studied the differences between the countries when it comes to forms of cohabitation and social interaction as relates to their mortality rates from COVID-19 infections. Their results indicated that the more employed people still lived together with their parents, the higher the proportion of deaths at the beginning of the epidemic.
In Italy, for example, several generations often live under one roof, older relatives are heavily involved in family life and younger people who cannot afford their own home move out of their parents' house relatively late. "If the working population becomes infected to a high degree, this is less dramatic for population structures such as in Germany or Scandinavia, where we see less intergenerational forms of living together," Kuhn states. But once the virus has spread among the elderly, a chain reaction occurs that overburdens the health care system.
Because it is also common practice in many Eastern European countries for many generations to live together, economists warn of a similarly fatal situation as has been seen in Italy if protective measures for the elderly are not introduced early on.
They have also been able to identify similar correlations in the Asian countries. According to the report, the fact that the death rate there is still lower than in Spain and Italy is due to the fact that the population as a whole is significantly younger. It is also possible that the countries will benefit from their experience of the SARS crisis in 2003. In Asia, for example, there are so-called fever clinics that only treat cold-specific and flu-like symptoms, thus easing the burden on the health care system.
(Orig. text: Christine Bahr; Translation: ck)