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Home / Health / German town finds blueprint to reduce Covid-19 death toll

German town finds blueprint to reduce Covid-19 death toll



In Europe, during the Covid-19 wave, people are increasingly worried about getting vaccine doses. But one town claimed to have found a plan to prevent severe deaths without a severe lockdown.

In the spring, the southern German city of Tübingen was hit hard by the virus, but since then, measures such as extensive testing and even subsidized taxis have managed to protect the elderly who caused most of the deaths.

At the peak of the first wave in April, there were 70 Covid-19 patients (out of 89,000 residents) in the town’s largest hospital, 33 of whom were in intensive care, forcing doctors to cancel elective surgery. Today, at the peak of the current catastrophic sharp increase, the number of patients is only 35, many of which are transferred from other regions. Fifteen of them are in intensive care, and less than half of them are residents of Tubingen. The hospital has not cancelled non-emergency operations.

Local authorities say that such figures are not accidental. They pointed out that the town started earlier than most German cities to conduct frequent Covid-1

9 tests on caregivers, residents and visitors. It provides a taxi service for people over 65, so they don’t have to use public transportation. Young residents are discouraged from shopping between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in order to prevent the elderly from mixing up with those who are more likely to carry the asymptomatic virus.

So far, Tübingen’s pandemic policy has cost 500,000 euros, all funded by the town’s budget. According to estimates by the Ifo Institute, within a week of the current lockdown, restaurants and all non-essential stores were closed, causing 27 to 57 billion euros in output and subsidy losses to the German economy and the country. This is a government-funded economist. Think that the tank is in Munich.

Like other cities in Germany, Tubingen is also affected by the nationwide blockade announced earlier this month.


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Sebastian Gornov/Zuma Publishing

According to data from the Robert Koch Institute of Infectious Diseases, last Wednesday, Germany recorded 32,195 infections in one day, close to its record. The day before, it had recorded 962 deaths, the highest number of deaths in a single day.

Although the number of deaths from Covid-19 in the country in the spring is much lower than in most neighboring countries, in the past 14 days, the country has had more deaths relative to the population than France and Spain, and close to the level of the United Kingdom. Medical institutions across Germany are operating at full capacity, forcing authorities to transport severe cases to less affected hospitals across the country. In Germany, more than half of the deaths from the coronavirus are residents of nursing homes.

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This is not the case in Tübingen. Although the average infection rate among the general population is similar to that of nearby areas, the infection rate among the elderly is greatly reduced. Authorities said that by mid-December, during the fall pandemic, only 10% of the infected were over 65 years old, compared with 23% nationwide. As a result, the death rate in the town is very low. Since the beginning of the pandemic, only 33 people have died of Covid-19 in Tübingen University Hospital, which handles most of the coronavirus patients in the town. According to a spokesperson for the county, only two people have died of the virus in a nursing home since the spring. Compared with the 26 residents who died of Covid-19 in the early months of the pandemic, this number is significantly reduced.

The city government stated that they did not have any outbreaks in nursing homes from May to early December, when some facilities reported several infections. According to the test plan, the plan is mandatory for nursing homes managed by the municipality. Staff and residents must conduct tests twice a week, and all visitors must pass the tests before entering the premises. City officials said that although all nursing homes received free test kits from local authorities, some private institutions did not follow the test recommendations and explained the recent outbreak.

Local doctor Lisa Federle took a nasal swab sample from a troubled patient.


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Thomas Nedmiller/Getty Images

In addition, mobile devices can provide free tests for all major squares in the city. Lisa Federle, a senior emergency doctor and head of the local Red Cross, said that on Christmas Eve, hundreds of people used the service before visiting elderly friends and family in nursing homes or celebrating holidays together. .

Dr. Federle pioneered the testing program in early April and has since been testing people on the main square with a team of volunteers funded mainly by donations. On Wednesday, she and her team tested 500 people, and on Thursday another 600 people were tested. In October, Dr. Federer received Germany’s highest civilian honor, the Federal Merit Cross. Her initiative inspired the municipality to provide residents with free mass testing.

Dr. Federer said: “The most important thing is to protect the disadvantaged as much as possible, and testing everyone is the best tool.” “The grandchildren I get are tested in order to spend Christmas with their grandparents, or have Those who want to help their older neighbors with Christmas shopping.”

The test provided by Dr. Federer and the municipality is a rapid antigen test that can provide results within 15 minutes. Then, each positive case is confirmed by the so-called PCR, which is a more sensitive test, and results can be obtained within a few hours.

The mayor of Tubingen, Boris Palmer (Boris Palmer) said that his city is the first in Germany to offer free tests in September. It also provided supplementary N95 masks to all citizens over 65 for the first time in early November, a move that was later followed by the federal government.

The mayor of Tubingen, Boris Palmer (orange), said that the city’s approach has inspired other communities in Germany.


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Tom Weller/Zuma Press

In addition, with the surge of new cases in the fall, testing capabilities across Germany became strained. Tübingen ignored federal guidelines and only tested people with symptoms. Palmer said that, as a result, more than 40 asymptomatic cases have been found in nursing homes. If not detected early, everyone could cause an epidemic.

Mr. Palmer said: “Periodic inspections in the homes of elderly people can prevent many disease outbreaks: we have found employees who are in the early stages of infection, especially workers, so we have prevented them from spreading the disease to the elderly.”

Tübingen’s efforts have inspired other German cities, including 120 towns and villages in its hometown of Baden-Wurttemberg, but Mr. Palmer said that there is more that can be done nationwide. However, some hardest-hit areas in the east lack the funds available for the relatively affluent city of Tübingen. In addition, Germany’s 16 federal states and even cities and municipalities have a high degree of autonomy in health care policies. Facts have proved challenging to coordinate during a pandemic.

The head of the Tübingen University Hospital, Michael Bamberg, ordered all front-line staff and patients to be checked twice a week. He pointed out that data showed that 88% of the people who died of the disease in the area were over 70 .

He said: “If we conducted rigorous testing and distributed N95 masks nationwide earlier, then we would not need to perform this lock-in.”

New research can help explain why thousands of Covid-19 survivors face debilitating neurological symptoms a few months after the initial illness. The Wall Street Journal broke the scientific basis for how the coronavirus affects the brain, and what this might mean for long-distance patients. Illustration: Nick Collingwood / WSJ

Write to Bojan Pancevski Email: bojan.pancevski@wsj.com

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