Government initiatives have already increased the number of intensive care beds from about 24,000 to 40,000, most of them with ventilators. Staff are being retrained and non-essential operations across the country have been cancelled.
But the health system still needs more medical personnel to care for patients, increase the levels of testing, and track down people who have been in contact with those who are sick. The Robert Koch Institute, which advises the government on public health, has said 2,300 doctors are believed to be off sick or in quarantine. But with no central collation of data, the real figure is believed to be much higher. In the state of Bavaria alone, 244 doctors’ practices have had to close because of coronavirus infections.
Match4Healthcare, a website backed by medical authorities which was created by a volunteer team of students and hackers, seeks to match healthcare workers and volunteers – both citizens and foreigners living in Germany – to clinics and care homes needing support.
The eastern state of Saxony is at the forefront of a campaign calling on foreign doctors, including the thousands of refugees who arrived in 2015, to help. According to the Facebook group Syrian Doctors in Germany there are 14,000 Syrian doctors waiting for their qualifications to be approved.
“We are keen for anyone to get in touch who is in a position to help,” said a spokesman for the medical association in Leipzig (SLAEK), the capital of Saxony. “It could be someone who does not yet have their medical licence, but is on their way to getting it,” he said. “To date around 400 have been in touch.”
Saxony, with a population of just over 4 million, has not been as badly hit by the virus as other regions, but concern is growing. By Friday, there were almost 4,000 confirmed cases and 76 of them had died. “Right now the situation is still under control, but as it gets worse we need to prepare for that,” the spokesman said.