The United Kingdom trails behind Germany in its Covid-19 testing rates, and as the government rushes to increase the number of tests, it has become clear that screening of the virus is at the heart of controlling it. Let’s break down what the UK has done so far to combat the coronavirus, and what lessons it can learn from Germany.
In terms of the statistics, Germany’s death rate is the most striking. With (at the time of writing) 84,415 confirmed cases and 1,090 deaths, Germany’s fatality rate is only 1.3%. Compare that to the UK’s 33,718 cases and 2,921 deaths, our fatality rate is around 8.7%. These figures say little about the actual mortality rate of Covid-19 and far more about the respective virus-combatting strategies of Germany and the UK.
The UK government has been clear that they are unable to test anyone other than seriously ill patients and a select few NHS staff, leaving the vast majority of the population in the dark. This is due to a chronic shortage of medical supplies and test kits needed to track the progress of the virus, which many are attributing to the systemic underfunding of the NHS by the Conservatives.
The distressing deaths of several NHS staff members have exacerbated the growing discontent felt towards the way the government has handled the crisis. With the robust German healthcare system far better equipped to handle the pandemic, many are looking to the continent for a glimpse of what a properly funded health service looks like. However, it has become clear that even an exemplary health system will not be able to cope if testing is not carried out to a suitable degree – France has tested even fewer people than the UK, and has more deaths than China and Germany combined.
Aggressive testing of those with even the mildest symptoms has been carried out across Germany since the get-go, and they have so far tested over 900,000 people, in comparison to around 150,000 people in the UK. “Test, test, test,” was the recommendation of the WHO on the 16th of March, the head of the organisation calling for it to become the “backbone” of the response to the virus, yet Britain isn’t managing to test to its full capacity of over 12,000 tests per day, only reaching around 10,000.
As the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, sets a target of 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month, we have to wonder why Germany is already testing over 50,000 a day. Has the lax attitude expressed by the government at the start of the crisis already caused unnecessary deaths? And has this been directly aggravated by the government’s underfunding of the NHS? One thing is for certain – the testing methods pioneered by Germany and South Korea urgently need to be adopted by the United Kingdom.
Written by Labour writer, Max Ingleby