Situation in Germany FAQs on the coronavirus

The number of coronavirus cases in Europe is rising. Current measures aim to slow the spread of the virus. The fewer people become infected at the same time, the better seriously ill patients can be treated. Here are some important FAQs on the novel coronavirus.

A hand in a latex glove holds a brown tube labelled “Coronavirus”.

The slower the virus spreads the better.

Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How is the coronavirus transmitted? How can I protect myself?

The coronavirus can be transmitted from one person to another. To reduce the risk of infection, the same thus applies as for all infectious diseases: wash your hands thoroughly and often, cough or sneeze into a crooked elbow and not directly at anyone else, and keep a safe distance from anyone who is infected.

There is no documented case of transmission via imported food or other imported goods, such as toys. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, which is responsible for this issue, concludes that as far as we know at present it is improbable that imported goods could be the source of an infection with the novel coronavirus. The latest scientific findings at this stage indicate that the coronavirus cannot be transmitted from pets to humans or conversely from humans to pets.

What are the symptoms of the novel virus?

Coughing, sneezing, sore throats and fever: these are the symptoms of both an infection with the novel coronavirus and of other respiratory diseases. Some individuals have suffered diarrhoea. Some people are more severely affected, with respiratory problems and pneumonia.

For which groups is an infection with the virus particularly dangerous?

Of the cases reported to date, four out of every five patients suffer only mild symptoms. Some patients suffer more severe symptoms with respiratory problems and pneumonia. The fatalities so far have affected primarily patients who were elderly and/or had pre-existing chronic conditions.

It is difficult to say with any degree of certainty what percentage of sufferers die as a result of the virus. Too many questions remain unanswered. Representatives of the World Health Organization believe that the death rate in China, not including Hubei which was the epicentre of the outbreak, may be around 0.7 per cent. That would mean seven deaths for every 1,000 infections. Nobody can make any serious statement at this stage as to whether this fatality rate will be relevant for European states. It would appear that the novel coronavirus is less infectious overall than influenza, but can lead to serious conditions in certain more vulnerable sections of the population.

What should I do if I think I might be infected?

Anyone who has had direct contact with an individual who has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, should contact the health authorities (Gesundheitsamt) immediately by telephone – even if they have no symptoms. You can find your local health authority by using the search tool on the Robert Koch Institute website at  https://tools.rki.de/PLZTool/.  Just enter your postcode.

Anyone returning from an area designated a high-risk area by the Robert Koch Institute should avoid all non-essential contacts and stay at home as far as possible – even if they have no symptoms.

If you develop symptoms of respiratory disease, be careful to contain coughs and sneezes in a crooked elbow and wash your hands thoroughly and frequently. Contact your doctor by telephone. Do not go to the practice in person before phoning.

What precautions are in place in Germany?

Germany is in a good position to treat patients infected with the new virus. The German government has set up an emergency task force, which meets regularly. The aim is to contain and delay the further spread of the virus as far as possible.

The network of special units and clinics in Germany in particular ensures health care in line with top international standards. Germany has an excellent disease warning and notification system and plans are in place to address any pandemic.

The Robert Koch Institute works closely with various authorities and facilities at international and national level. It constantly monitors the situation, critically assesses all information, and produces its own risk assessment, which is published on the Institute’s website.

Should travellers check for coronavirus-related travel restrictions before travelling?

Anyone planning to travel outside Germany at the moment should check in advance whether travel bans or special health controls are in place at their destination as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. The Federal Foreign Office has a dedicated coronavirus page which sums up all the most important information. The embassy or consulate of the country you intend to visit will be able to provide you with all vital information before you travel.

On its website the German Federal Foreign Office offers travel and security warnings for all countries. Anyone planning to travel can find up-to-date and reliable information on the situation in the country in question – country information, security updates, customs regulations and recommended vaccinations.

Information about the rights of holidaymakers who decide not to travel or who wish to cut their holiday short can be found on the website of the German consumer protection agency (Verbraucherzentrale, German only) and the European information centre in Germany.

What should travellers returning from coronavirus high-risk areas do?

If you have been in contact with anybody who has tested positive for the novel virus, or if you have been in a high-risk area, you should avoid contact with other people and contact your local health authority (Gesundheitsamt) immediately. You can find your local health authority by using the search tool on the Robert Koch Institute website at  https://tools.rki.de/PLZTool/. Just enter your postcode. A decision can then be made on what steps should be taken.

If you need medical assistance you should contact a medical practice by phone. It is very important to tell them that you have been in a high-risk area for the coronavirus or that you have had contact with someone who has been in a high-risk area.  The Robert Koch Institute offers information for the medical profession on its website.

Where can I find the latest reliable information on everything to do with the coronavirus?

The Federal Ministry of Health publishes the latest information about the coronavirus on its website. On its website, the  Federal Centre for Health Education (BZgA) has also posted FAQs on the novel coronavirus with answers.

The Robert Koch Institute, which is the federal body responsible for dealing with infectious diseases, has already set up a situation centre. Its website offers extensive information about the novel coronavirus. Facts and figures about the spread of the infection, the epidemiology, diagnosis, prevention and steps to fight the virus address interested members of the general public and medical staff.

And on the  World Health Organization (WHO) website you will also find information about the novel coronavirus.