Status: 23.09.2020 6 p.m..
An evaluation of corona data from 150 health authorities shows enormous differences in the number of close contacts. The information varies massively from district to district.
By Markus Grill and Mara Leurs, WDR / NDR.
August was another busy month for the health authorities. Around 34,000 people were tested for the new coronavirus, more than twice as many as in July. The laboratories report every single positive finding to the health authorities http://local-news.site/find-an-apprenticeship-in-a-hotel-in-dubai-where/ in the districts, which then not only send those affected into domestic isolation, but also have to identify and follow up close contacts.
According to the criteria of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), close contact persons are roughly anyone who came closer than 1.5 meters to an infected person for 15 minutes during the days when he is contagious. These so-called “contact persons category 1” are sent into quarantine by the health authorities as a precaution because they could already be infected, even without any signs of illness.
Nationwide insufficient database.
How many such contact persons each infected person in Germany has on average is not yet officially known, nor is it known how well the health authorities succeed in locating these contact persons at all. On request, the RKI informs that it has no knowledge of these questions and that no data are available.
WDR, NDR and “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) therefore asked all 380 health authorities in Germany and received detailed information from 152 offices. According to this, a corona infected person had an average of 4.9 close contacts in August. However, the numbers differ significantly from state to state: While Saxony determined an average of 9.8 contact persons per infected person, the value in Baden-Württemberg is 3.6, in Bavaria even 1.7.
How health authorities should be strengthened.
Massive differences in counties.
Even greater differences can be found at the district level: In August, the health department of the Leipzig district identified 25 close contact persons for each infected person and sent them to quarantine, the health department in Berlin-Charlottenburg between 10 and 80 contact persons for each infected person, while in Tübingen it was only 1.7 contact persons per infected person.
The deputy head of the health department in Tübingen, Oliver Piehl, does not have an explanation for the low number. The number also seems low to him, says Piehl when asked, maybe it is because of those returning from vacation in August. Because when people come freshly infected from abroad, the health authorities usually only contact contact persons in Germany.
Often wrong information.
Encounters abroad, says Ute Teichert, chairwoman of the Federal Association of Doctors in the Public Health Service, authorities would have to report to the RKI. But how often this actually happened and how often the RKI then contacted authorities abroad, no data is collected on this, the institute informs on request.
Authorities are looking for hundreds of guests.
Teichert says, similar to the guest lists in bars and restaurants, it happens again and again with the disembarkation cards of the planes that instead of their name “Angela Merkel” or “Superman” people write: “This is frustrating especially for air travelers”, says Teichert. After all, false information means that the health authorities lose a lot of time researching the real contact addresses.
In the Zollernalb district in Baden-Württemberg, the health department did not register any close contact at 68 among the 95 infected people in August. Office manager Günter Gießler says that this could also be due to “the fact that we have more areas and fewer urban areas in the provinces than in the big city”. There are many elderly people who live alone or families who infect each other and then have no other contact persons. “We ask people according to the criteria of the RKI, but if they say we have no contact persons, then in the end we have to believe that too.”
Health authorities report successes with follow-up.
84.5 percent of the health authorities stated in their answers that they had managed to get in touch with all of the contact persons. Another 14.9 percent said they had made contact with “almost everyone”. Accordingly, the health authorities have been able to trace almost 99 percent of the contact persons in whole or in part.
Compared to other countries, this is an extremely high figure.
Reporting chaos at health authorities.
The British state health service NHS was unable to identify a third of the contact persons for infected people in England, as reported by the British newspaper “The Guardian”. In France, on the other hand, experts explain that the current high increase in new infections is also due to the fact that the authorities are unable to track contact persons and thereby break the chains of infection.
Offices vary in transparency depending on the federal state.
However, there are major differences in Germany with regard to the transparency of the health authorities. For example, 60 percent of the health authorities in Schleswig-Holstein, Thuringia, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland had answered the survey and provided their data. In Baden-Württemberg and Lower Saxony it was even 70 percent of the offices.
In Bavaria, on the other hand, only 2.5 percent, that is, only two health authorities.
Several Bavarian offices, however, had announced that the request would be answered centrally by the Ministry of Health in Munich. But they refused to provide the relevant data when asked. Bavaria is the state that is currently most affected by new corona infections.
Of the ten districts that have the most new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in Germany, four are in Bavaria.
Bavaria: “No muzzle exemption”
But the local Ministry of Health has been masonry for months with information about the health authorities. According to information from WDR, NDR and SZ, a muzzle decree was issued to the local health authorities on March 30th. In a letter from the ministry, Unit 53 instructed the offices not to respond to press inquiries, “as these surveys are not coordinated with us”.
On request, Ministry spokesman Thomas Körbel said: “There is and has not been a muzzle decree. Of course, the health authorities can answer press inquiries on their own responsibility.” The Ministry tries “wherever possible to discharge”.
Criticism from the opposition.
The state parliament member Sebastian Körber (FDP) also criticizes the lack of transparency of the Bavarian state government. He himself only received superficial answers to a small question about how well the individual health departments are equipped for tracking contact persons. “I think it’s scandalous how the Bavarian state government disregards the control rights of parliament and the press,” says Körber.
After all, Bavaria still has higher deaths per inhabitant than other federal states “and I suspect that we are worse positioned in rural areas than in metropolitan areas”. By preventing the districts from providing information about this, the Ministry of Health is trying to prevent such findings, the MP criticizes.
For the time being, Bavaria will remain a black box as far as the work of the local health authorities is concerned. It is not clear how many contact persons the authorities there determine for each infected person, nor how well they manage to actually contact these persons and send them to quarantine. The two offices that replied from Bavaria, Neu-Ulm and Berchtesgadener Land, have an astonishingly low number of contact persons per infected person with an average of 1.6.
MDR Aktuell reported on this topic on September 24, 2020 at 1:47 p.m..