How Berlin managed the corona pandemic
Although Europe became in mid-March 2020 the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany as one of the most populous countries of the continent was not the worst hit. As of September 20th, 2020, the Robert Koch Institute, the German center for disease control, reports 271.415 Covid-19 cases in Germany. 13.108 of these cases are recorded in Berlin. In the meantime, 240.700 patients have recovered throughout Germany, and there are about 1.384 active cases in Berlin (www.rki.de).
Across Germany, in cumulated cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest incidences are currently in the regions of Bavaria (494) and Baden-Wuerttemberg (424). In the capital Berlin, which has one of the highest population densities in the country, there are only 349 cases/100,000 population. What are the reasons that Germany and its capital Berlin have not been heavily affected and show comparably low fatality rates (www.statista.com)?
Setting up a crisis team
In January 2020, the German government set up a corona crisis team that has been meeting regularly since then. In its workings and decisions, the crisis team relies on extensive exchange with scientists from different fields. In March 2020, several lockdown restrictions such as shop, restaurant and school closures, ban of large events and social distancing regulations were implemented to reduce the number of new infections. In the same time, hospital capacities and intensive care beds were made available to admit Covid-19 patients and a comprehensive testing and tracking strategy was introduced. A network of all 37 German university hospitals was established under the management of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin to achieve best possible care for Covid-19 patients and to develop further therapies. Internationally renowned Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten at Charité became the German face of scientific expertise in times of the corona pandemic.
A slow but cautious reopening
In the following weeks, as the infection curve flattened several restrictions were being eased. In April and May 2020, schools, shops, restaurants, hotels and museums reopened but were mandated to follow strict hygiene measures. However, contact restrictions are still in place. A distance of 1.5m has to be kept between two persons and people are required to wear masks in public transportation and when entering shops. Many theatres opened on 1 August, Berlin clubs and discos are still closed. In the meantime, symptom-free travellers can be tested for Covid-19 at Berlin's Tegel and Schoenefeld Airports, at Berlin Central Station and Central Bus Station (ZOB). Since 8 August, the tests have been mandatory for travellers from risk areas (see RKI list).
Berlin alert system based on three indicators
With the reopening, German local authorities closely monitor the evolution of the pandemic. In the capital Berlin, the city’s government introduced an alert system that uses three indicators to regularly measure the pandemic and keep the current measures in place. The reproduction rate (the number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on) should not exceed 1.2, the number of new infections within the last 7 days/100,000 population should be under 30 and the utilization of intensive care beds by corona patients should be under 25%. With regard to the reproduction rate, it should be noted that the lower the number of cases, the more susceptible it can be to fluctuations.The numbers are published regularly and currently all show acceptable limits.
Source: https://www.berlin.de/sen/gpg/ & https://www.berlin.de/corona/fallstatistik/