Amid his daily update to COVID-19 Sunday, Prime Minister François Legault offered a glimpse of a strategy that guides Quebec’s response to the pandemic: it was based on the approach taken by Germany.
The German model is “the model we are all trying to follow,” Legault said, citing the country’s significantly lower mortality rate, the relatively high level of testing and the level of discipline shown by Germany in following public health directives.
The relative success – so far – of German measures has been highlighted in recent days by major media outlets, all commenting on the country’s efficient testing system, well-funded health care infrastructure and the low contrast between German COVIDs. 19 mortality rates and the highest in Italy.
So how well does Quebec follow the German example?
In terms of testing and mortality rates, Quebec and Germany are very much in harmony. But in terms of hospital readiness, there seem to be some big differences.
Data on Sunday puts the Quebec death rate from the corona virus at 1.18 percent; on Saturday, Germany was at 1.5 percent, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
In comparison, the mortality rate in several countries in Western Europe is more than 5 percent, with Italy 12.3 percent.
Germany, with a population of around 83 million, conducted 918,460 COVID-19 tests on March 29. That means 11,127 per million people.
On Sunday, Quebec, with a population of around 8.4 million people, had conducted 98,783 tests – or 11,642 per million.
Test capacity in Germany is said to be as high as 500,000 per week, according to Dr. Christian Drosten, director of the Institute for Virology at Berlin Charite, Germany’s largest teaching hospital.
Last week, Quebec did more than 40,000.
Considering differences in population size, that’s about 20 percent lower than Germany’s ability. The German testing system is decentralized, with private laboratories sharing the burden and allowing more tests to be processed.
Germany also began to test extensively since the beginning of the crisis, and quickly established itself as European leader. Quebec, on the other hand, initially lagged behind other provinces when it came to daily tests, although now only Alberta tests more citizens, per capita.
‘Quebec is a disciplined person’
On Sunday, Legault began his speech with that in mind Google data has been displayed Quebec has taken physical distance more seriously than Canadians in other provinces or America in one of the 50 U.S. states.
He observed that German Chancellor Angela Merkel was very strict about physical distance.
“We know that the Germans are disciplined,” Legault said. “And what we can see is that Quebec is a disciplined person.”
Merkel gave a rare national speech on television on March 18, in which he appealed to the German public to take the crisis very seriously.
Legault tells Quebec residents about the Quebec situation every day at 1 pm, making the same request every time.
After introducing a series of small steps during the first 10 days of the crisis, Quebec imposed big limits on public life on March 21, banned all meetings, closed unnecessary businesses and stressed the need to physically distance themselves. Germany took a similar step a day later.
Both Legault and Merkel enjoyed strong support during the crisis, which in some cases caused a high level of public cooperation in both places with applicable restrictions.
Latest poll put Legault’s approval rating among Quebec at 69 percent. A survey last week by a German public broadcaster showed Merkel was ranked in agreement with a similar 64 percent.
Where things might be different is in terms of medical facilities. Uwe Janssens, head of the German Intensive Care and Emergency Care Association, told CBC that the country has up to 10,000 available ICU beds.
Quebec says it has around 578 ICU beds available (164 now in use), And are taking steps to bring the total to 1,000. That would bring it to the same level as Germany, taking into account differences in population size.
The 10,000 figure may be low, however: on March 19, Germany’s defense minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, said the number of intensive care facilities equipped with respirators would increase to around 50,000 from 28,000.
Germany also has around 500,000 hospital beds and plans to double that, Kramp-Karrenbauer said. Quebec, with around 7,000 beds ready, will need to increase the number of beds sevenfold to reach a population equivalent to half a million German beds today.
However, there are some similarities between the measures that apply in Germany and Quebec, which might be a reason for hope in a difficult time.
Even if the comparison is correct in many ways, this pandemic is far from over, and some experts in Germany and elsewhere are wondering if the country’s success so far will continue.
“There is nothing special about what we do. We are lucky,” Dr. Karl Lauterbach, an epidemiologist and member of the German Parliament, told Jonathon Gatehouse of CBC recently.
“We are very aware that in a few weeks, we might be in big trouble.”
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