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COVID-19: UK v Germany

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

As the UK passes 20k COVID-19 positive deaths, why is the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 so different in Germany compared to the UK? The UK is a genuine centre of excellence for infectious diseases and had made relatively good preparations for such an event. So, where might it have gone so wrong?

  • Real-world decision-making. The UK has not adapted effectively when (most) things have not gone to plan (e.g. assumptions about the incubation period).

  • Lost February. The UK government “spun their wheels” in February whilst Germany got ready.

  • Measure what you care about. Germany invested in testing and contact tracing. The UK, even now, is disorganised.

  • Stepping up. UK politicians, civil servants, hospital administrators and academic advisers have not had the right skillsets for this crisis (as Tony Blair has recently pointed out) and they have lacked the wisdom and humility to bring in the right resource.

So, what about France/Italy (very similar story to UK) and Spain (worst of big 5)? Are South Europeans too sociable? Intuitively, the reasons for a difference don’t seem to add up to the size of the difference. What else might be at play? Any money on a genetic/epidemiological explanation too?


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