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How Germany got months ahead of its neighbours in the battle against COVID-19.

By mid-January, scientists in Germany had developed a test for a virus in China that had not yet escaped into the global community.

Wuhan – the Chinese epicentre – went into lockdown on January 23, but the rest of the world hadn’t yet cottoned on to the fact that within weeks COVID-19 would have stopped all of our lives as we know it.

But Germany was already preparing.

WATCH: German Chancellor Angela Merkel updating her citizens on social distancing rules. Post continues after video.

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Not only did they have a test by January, they were ready to use it just a few weeks later.

A few months down the track and Germany’s neighbours Italy and France were recording astronomically high fatality rates from COVID-19, with Italy recording the most amount of deaths in the entire world.

At the time of writing, Italy has 115,242 cases and nearly 14,000 deaths and France has 59,000 cases and close to 5,500 deaths.

By way of comparison, Germany has 84,794 cases and 1,100 deaths – and they have at least 10-20 million more people than the countries listed above.

Their fatality rate is approximately 0.6 per cent of confirmed cases, whereas Italy’s is above 10 per cent, reports Sky News.

Despite being one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic, experts think Germany’s fast and widespread testing is a large part of the reason their numbers are significantly lower.

The current COVID-19 figures.

They’re currently pumping out 500,000 tests a week – and it’s giving them a clearer picture of the overall situation in their country, so they can clamp down on outbreaks quicker and more efficiently. They’re also able to pick up on more mild symptoms or asymptotic cases.

“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,” said virologist Dr. Christian Drosten, reports 9News. 

The other thing that’s helping Germany is their early preparation of resources.

As AA reports, once a country’s intensive care beds and ventilators reach their limits, the number of deaths increase, which is what we’ve seen in Italy.

Germany is still seeing a huge influx of patients but their fatality rates aren't as high as their neighbours. Image: Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images.
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But Germany used their head start to increase their hospital's capacity.

Italy and France have about 5000 and 7000 ICU beds - even in the UK there's only 4000 critical care beds. But Germany has 25,000 (and is doubling that.)

"It’s difficult to disentangle," admitted Richard Pebody of the World Health Organization when asked about Germany's lower fatality numbers, reported the Daily Mail.

"We don’t have a true answer and it’s probably a combination of different factors.”

President Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's disease control centre, says another one of those factors is who the virus has affected in Germany.

"In Germany, more than 70 percent of the people identified as having been infected until now are between 20 and 50 years old," he told the Mail.

Among the first infected were from people who had returned from skiing holidays in Italy and Austria.

In Italy, by way of comparison, it's the older population who are more at risk of dying, who have been hit the hardest.

Germany is by no means safe.

They're still seeing huge numbers of sick and dying, and they could still see a spike like Italy and Spain.

But what we can learn from them, as Australia is still weeks behind much of the world, is that preparation and early intervention is key.

We need more tests (they're coming), we need more beds (which is happening), and we need to stay at home (those rules are in place), if we are to beat COVID-19.

READ: What you need to know about COVID-19 today, Friday April 3.

Feature image: Angela Merkel via Getty.

To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.
To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

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