Coronavirus measures such as wearing masks and social distancing have not only helped to stop the spread of Covid-19, they have also cut cases of cold weather disease by 50 percent, according to new data from Germany.
Flu, bronchitis and pneumonia cases all decreased significantly in northeast Germany, including Berlin, according to a study by health insurance company AOK Nordost.
From September to mid-November, the number of people on leave due to illness due to flu has halved compared to previous years.
Absence due to acute bronchitis fell by more than half, the study found, while sick days from pneumonia and gastrointestinal infections fell by a third.
The authors say this is likely due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
“Corona protection measures including masks, hand washing and distancing did not prevent a second wave of Covid-19,” the report said.
“The rules, however, have at least limited the spread of flu and other infectious diseases in the fall.”
The authors also speculate that an increase in flu vaccinations might also have contributed to a decrease in infections.
The study, released on Sunday, calculated more than 63,000 requests for sick leave throughout the fall in the northeastern German states of Berlin, Brandenberg and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. All three states are home to more than 7.5 million people.
That period includes two weeks of Germany’s ‘light on lock’, which begins in November.
This month, tougher coronavirus measures were introduced nationwide – including closing bars, restaurants and cafes, along with strict restrictions on group gatherings, travel and leisure activities.
The authors found a more significant reduction in sick leave in the larger, more rural state than in Berlin. In Brandenberg, sick days were reduced by about 15 percentage points and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania by about 12.
They fell only 8 percentage points in the German capital, which the authors attribute to sustainable use of public transport.
“Even under contact restrictions, more people meet in Berlin than in the greater state – for example on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn and buses,” the report said.
“More contact means more opportunity for infectious disease to spread.”