Wissenschaftler and doctors exert increasing pressure on the government to extend the significant output restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread nationwide. According to the Federal Government’s virological advisor, Christian Drosten, the German Society for Epidemiology has now responded to the exponentially increasing infection rates in a statement: “There is currently a short time window in which the decision between containment and slowing the spread of infection is still without overloading the Health system. “It is now a matter of” to limit the social contacts to the essentials in the entire population”.

Slowdown or containment – these are the only options as long as there are no proven effective drugs. The goal of the slowdown has recently mostly been dressed in the formula that one has to “flatten the curve”: fewer people would become infected than without the recommended or prescribed protective measures, but the spread of the virus in the population would be stretched over a long period of time. Containment, on the other hand, means the goal of stopping the spread of the virus so that no one is infected at all. If that succeeds in Germany, which seems unrealistic in the absence of a vaccine, even with drastic measures, then “re-introduction of the infection” to Germany would have to be prevented, as the epidemiologists’ paper says.

Success is “practically unimaginable” in the case of Coronavirus

Slowdown is and remains the approach followed in most of the countries concerned. As long as the number of infected people was manageable, this resulted in calls for hand hygiene, the isolation of coronavirus infected people and quarantine for contact persons. “Social distance” became a battle cry: people should keep one and a half to two meters away from their fellow human beings. The Chancellor also asked the Germans to do so. The Society for Epidemiology believes that the numbers of individual regional virus clusters also recognize that “the measures taken so far have already brought about a reduction in the effective number of reproductions”.

How many people would get infected and how quickly
Graphic: joth. /Source: German Society for Epidemiology

The reproduction number of the virus (R0) indicates how many other people can be infected by an infected person. It thus corresponds to the infection rate, so to speak, and – along with the death rate – is a key indicator for the spread of the pathogen. However, it is difficult to determine in an ongoing epidemic because the infectivity of the virus depends on many properties of the virus itself, such as the behavior of the population and the proportion of already infected or immune citizens. So R0 changes in the course of an epidemic, and it also varies regionally depending on the density of infections. The new model calculations are largely based on Chinese figures for the spread of the Covid 19 virus; these are not very reliable, but better data are not yet available.