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COVID 19 -- What Germany Did Rtght and Trump Did Not

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Message Arshad M Khan

If the US effort has been characterized by a daily presidential news conference, the German response has distanced itself from politics. Local and apolitical, state teams have descended on each cluster and methodically traced the chain of infection, testing, and then isolating those infected.

Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Raimond Spekking, Author: Raimond Spekking)
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Of the major advanced European countries, Germany with 87 deaths per million (dpm) population has, as of Thursday, May 7, one-sixth the death rate in Italy (495 dpm) and one-fifth compared with the UK (443 dpm). Over 1.26 million cases have been reported in the US and over 75,431 have died; Germany has had a little over 168,000 cases and under 7,322 deaths -- a tenth of the US when its inhabitants number about a quarter of the US population.

How Germany has been so outstandingly successful can best be illustrated by studying its reaction to its first cluster of cases:

Webasto Group is a car parts supplier based in Stockdorf, a small town close to Munich. A Chinese program manager based in Shanghai visited in January to attend meetings and facilitate workshops. She has said she was feeling unwell during her stay but attributed it to jet lag and continued working. On her return flight, she was feverish and when her symptoms worsened in Shanghai, she was hospitalized and tested for the coronavirus. She was positive. Her parents, who live in Wuhan, had visited her before she left on January 19 for Germany. They, too, tested positive for the virus. She promptly emailed her superiors in Germany.

There, local doctors and scientific experts went into action immediately. Our task is to trace all contacts and "reconstruct the chain of infection", said the doctor treating the patients. They found 16 in what came to be known as the Munich cluster. All were hospitalized so that doctors could observe the progress of this novel viral infection, and all but one displayed symptoms.

Munich is in Bavaria which acted to minimize public life in mid-March joining the country as a whole to gradually impose a shutdown. Schools and nurseries were closed by the Federal Government on March 13 and nursing home visits prohibited to protect the old. Borders to five neighboring countries were also closed two days later. A week later on March 22, Germany announced the complete lockdown and a national curfew.

Observing social distancing and careful but extensive testing has minimized spread and ensured sufficient testing kits and intensive care beds remain. The surplus has been offered to neighbors. Contrast Germany's actions with the US and Donald Trump.

When Germany responded immediately to the first case in mid-January, the epidemic in the US was about to start. On January 21, a man in Washington state who fell ill was tested and diagnosed with the coronavirus.

As the news media picked up the story, highlighting the spread and fatalities in Wuhan, President Trump characterized it as a seasonal flu that will disappear as the weather warms up. He ascribed the rush of newspaper reports to a Democratic hoax designed to make him look bad before the November election. Thus valuable time was lost allowing the virus to spread across the country.

That is how and why most of the US is in lockdown now while Germany went over the hump mid-April when recovered patients started to exceed new daily infections. Chancellor Merkel said the goal of slowing the spread of the coronavirus had been achieved, and the lockdown is being relaxed gradually. Shops have reopened and schools have started to in stages. The football league will resume playing to televised audiences.

Meanwhile, the boastful, bullying, blubbering and blabbering Trump betrays his woeful ignorance, although no longer daily, at the afternoon news conferences. Devoid of sympathy for the families of the dead and dying or the jobless running short of money, he sought aid for businesses -- it took Congress to move to provide some sort of help for individuals. Trump promptly turned the IRS notification into a personal letter to claim credit. The guy never misses a campaign trick.

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Arshad M Khan is a former Professor. Educated at King's College London, Oklahoma State University and the University of Chicago, he has a multidisciplinary background that has frequently informed his research. He was elected a Fellow of the (more...)
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