Europe COVID-19 News
: The Coronavirus pandemic had forced a lot of major events and exhibitions to be cancelled and as a result, Berlin’s main and largest exhibition canter, Messe was unused and empty. Even as Germany starts easing up on the lockdown ad public life, soldiers are busy giving the exhibition center a major makeover, converting it into a hospital.
Even as wires are still hanging from the ceilings, it clearly visible that when construction is finished, the vast site will be able to host up to 1,000 patients.
German authorities are busy ramping up their capacity to deal with a second wave of infections.
The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly warned that Germany must not rest on its laurels even if the infection rate has dropped, saying it is still "on thin ice".
Leading virologist Christian Drosten of Berlin's Charite hospital has also warned that the virus could return with a "totally different force".
He said, "The virus will continue to spread in the course of the next weeks and months, and a second wave would be dangerous as it could pop up everywhere at the same time. We may be in the process of completely squandering our headstart, and we should avoid complacency.”
Despite Germany winning international praise for its widespread testing system as well as huge capacity in treating patients, it is still throwing vast resources at increasing the number of intensive care beds equipped with ventilators.
This can also be observed at the university hospital in Aachen, close to the Dutch border, dozens of beds lie empty in case of a resurgence in cases.
Dr Gernot Marx, director of intensive care at the hospital, which treated some of the first serious cases earlier this year said, "We are ready to react dynamically. We have not yet had to decide to treat one patient over another due to the high bed capacity and good preparation. I hope it stays that way."
So far 13,000 of Germany's 32,000 intensive care beds remained free at the last count.
At the start of the crisis, Germany had much more breathing room than its European neighbors, with 33.9 intensive care beds per 100,000 inhabitants compared to 8.6 in Italy and 16.3 in France.
Also, it has since drastically expanded intensive care and screening capacities.
Dr Gerald Gass, president of the German Hospitals Society (DKG) said "Germany is prepared for a possible second wave. In the coming months, we plan to keep around 20 percent of our beds with respiratory assistance free, and we want to be able to free up a further 20 percent at 72 hours’ notice if a second wave comes,"
Germany which is Europe's biggest economy currently has a coronavirus mortality rate of 3.5 percent, with latest figures showing 150,383 confirmed cases with 5,321 fatalities.
Although that figure is rising, it remains far below that of other countries such as Spain or Italy, where the death rate hovers at 10 percent.
As Germany's health system yet to become overburdened, Dr Gass has called on hospitals to slowly return to treating patients whose cases were suspended during the crisis as they are deemed to require less time-pressing operations.
He added, "In general, our hospitals are less busy now than they are usually.”
Berlin's current strategy is to pursue a step-by-step return to normality, accompanied by hundreds of thousands of tests a week.
The German Chancellor has said the aim is to be able to return to a stage where infection numbers are low enough to allow contact chains to be traced and isolated to prevent flare-ups elsewhere and a contact tracing app is expected to be rolled out in the coming weeks.
Protective masks are now also obligatory on public transport across the country and, in some states, in shops as well.
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