Germany prepares for Covid-19 second wave as lockdown begins to ease

Europe © AFP - Ronny Hartmann
APR 24, 2020 LISTEN
© AFP - Ronny Hartmann

Authorities in Germany are ramping up capacity to deal with a second wave of coronavirus infections as the country gradually comes out of confinement. Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned that Germans must remain disciplined, saying the country still remains “on thin ice”. 

German soldiers are helping to convert Berlin's exhibition centre Messe into a 1,000-bed hospital as part of efforts to expand capacity to cope with coronavirus infections, AFP reported Friday. 

Authorities are worried that a second wave of Covid-19 infections could be dangerous, making people sick “everywhere at the same time”, virologist Christian Drosten of Berlin's Charite hospital told public broadcaster NDR

Drosten warned of complacency, adding that Germany could be in the middle of potentially “squandering” the head start it had established. 

German testing and treatment capacity 

Germany has been widely praised for its comprehensive testing system and considerable capacity for treating patients. It is still mobilising resources to ramp up the number of intensive care beds equipped with mechanical ventilators. 

Gerald Gass, head of the German Hospitals Society, told AFP the country was “prepared for a possible second wave” of coronavirus.

He said their contingency plans include provision for keeping around 20 percent of beds with respiratory assistance free. And furthermore, having the ability to free up another 20 percent in three days if a second wave of coronavirus arrives. 

The mortality rate from coronavirus stands at 3.5 percent in Germany, according to statistics quoted by AFP. The latest numbers show more then 150,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 5,321 deaths. 

Berlin's strategy is to return to normality step-by-step continuing to test hundreds of thousands of people for coronavirus per week. Merkel said the intention is to return to a position where infection levels are low enough to enable contact tracing and isolation of coronavirus cases to avoid flare-ups.

The Robert Koch Institute, which is responsible for disease control and prevention, said on Friday that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany needs to drop to a few hundred a day to allow for a lifting of lockdown measures, Reuters news agency reported. 

Business confidence plummets 

Meanwhile, business confidence in Germany dropped to a record low in April, according to a closely-watched survey published on Friday. 

The Ifo survey is based on a questionnaire of 9,000 companies and has been around since 1991. "Companies have never been so pessimistic about the coming months," Ifo boss Clemens Fuest said. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has destroyed the world economy, bringing considerable restrictions to everyday life and leaving many businesses in dire straits, struggling for survival.

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