The report notes that on 12 March, when Germany counted around 1,500 infections and three fatalities from Covid-19, the first measures to restrict social contacts were implemented. By 22 March the country was in lockdown by tightening earlier measures, closing most non-essential retail business and requiring strict social
distancing, although Germans had – influenced by the dramatic pictures from Italy – already clearly adjusted their behaviour.
“This proactive behaviour probably allowed for less draconic measures than some other EU countries had to take,” the authors comment. “There was no curfew in Germany and manufacturing and construction companies were not forced to shut down operations.”
By the beginning of April, the daily number of new infections peaked at more than 6,000, after which a sharp deceleration in the number of newly infected and the resulting decline in active cases, allowed for a first cautious easing of the lockdown from 20 April, when the daily increase had slowed to around 2,000.
On 6 May a second major step – to reopen shops, restaurants and schools – was taken with each German federal state, or Länder in charge of the implementation. While events involving larger crowds, such as concerts and fairs remain prohibited until 31 August, schools and cultural institutions have reopened at different speeds and extents in the 16 Länder.
Luck also played a part - Germany was not one of the first European countries hit by the pandemic, thus providing it with more information about the virus and some lead time to prepare. While the number of infections in percent of the population is by now similar to other countries, the lower mortality rate stands out.
Initially it reflected the fact that the young and healthy people – with a much lower probability of becoming seriously ill – brought the infection back home from skiing vacations in Austria and Italy. As the virus has spread in Germany the infection fatality rate has risen from 1.1% on 1 April to 4.7% more recently but is still among the lowest in the world, which “can certainly be attributed to the quality of Germany’s health system.”
By the 11 June date of the report’s publication, Germany had also performed some 5,200 Covid-19 tests per million inhabitants; a number “clearly above many other EU countries”.