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How Germany Contained the Coronavirus

Compared to many other countries, Germany has managed the COVID-19 crisis well, owing to its properly funded health system, technological edge, and decisive leadership. But beyond any unique feature of the German system is something that all countries can replicate: a strong commitment to building public trust.

BERLIN – Germany is often referred to as a positive example of how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. We were successful in preventing the overburdening of our health system. The curve of infections is clearly flattening. And the proportion of severe cases and fatalities is lower in Germany than in many other countries. But this makes us humble, rather than overconfident.

I see three reasons why Germany is coming through this crisis relatively well, for now. First, the German health-care system was in good shape going into the crisis; everyone has had full access to medical care. This is a merit not just of the current government but of a system that was built over the course of many governments. With an excellent network of general practitioners available to deal with milder COVID-19 cases, hospitals have been able to focus on the more severely ill.

Second, Germany was not the first country to be hit by the virus, and thus had time to prepare. While we have always kept a relatively large number of hospital beds available, particularly in intensive-care units, we also took the COVID-19 threat seriously from the beginning. Accordingly, the country’s ICU capacity was increased by 12,000 beds to 40,000 very quickly.

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