Coronavirus: RKI justifies itself – and then holds back consistently

Dhe Robert Koch Institute (RKI) cannot yet give an assessment as to whether the measures are effective against the spread of the coronavirus. “We have to wait further to see whether the measures work,” said RKI President Lothar Wieler in Berlin.

The number of reported cases continues to increase. On Monday, he had spoken of the apparent trend that the exponential growth curve is flattening somewhat, but does not yet want to assess this.

The institute has the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Germany 31,554 stated – an increase of 4118 since the previous day. The RKI, which only takes into account the electronically transmitted figures from the federal states and updates its list once a day, has so far registered 149 deaths.

Wieler confirmed previous statements that Germany was still at the beginning of the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. “It is still completely open how this epidemic will develop”, he said.

The thing with the numbers

There is always criticism of the data situation in Germany. But the federal system of the Federal Republic means that different authorities in the federal states collect, bundle and publish the data at different times.

The first ones are usually the local health authorities. They transmit their data to the state health authorities. Depending on who publishes the figures here and when, the data from the outside can no longer match. Wieler explained: “The health authorities are currently fast. Some transmit on the same day and weekend, but not all. “

Unreported cases are to be determined

According to Wieler, what others provided are projections like on election evening. “These numbers are bare.” The RKI delivers the official result, with a delay, but with more depth and more background information.

The number of unreported cases of coronavirus infections is to be determined using representative studies. Representative samples are being planned, said Wieler. This would require tests that also provided antibody detection. However, such tests are currently not available.

One of the most cited universities these days is the Johns Hopkins University. It has what everyone desires: Coronavirus pandemic numbers. Worldwide and almost continuously updated, graphically prepared. Their numbers are also taken for Germany. They report more cases than the RKI: 32,991 infected and 159 dead.

“Numbers seem to be objective and you tend to believe them,” explains André Scherag from the Institute for Medical Statistics, Computer Science and Data Sciences at the University of Jena. “They suggest security. That’s what you’d like to have at the moment. ”But the numbers currently available have their pitfalls.

Johns Hopkins University cites the Dutch news agency BNO News in Tilburg as the source of its German figures, which refers to figures from the “Berliner Morgenpost”.

Marie-Louise Timcke, who heads the interactive team of the Funke media group, to which the “Morgenpost” belongs, has no direct contact to the university – but has already noticed: “Whenever we manually enter new numbers, they always have the same According to Timcke, the “Morgenpost” also uses the figures from the state health offices.

Scherag researcher warns of country comparisons

Via the detour Tilburg and Baltimore, the data then ends up in the German news with source Johns Hopkins. But even if the “Morgenpost” is not mentioned then, Timcke says: “Somehow I think it’s totally cool, it’s like a kind of collaboration: We use their world data, and they use our data about Germany.”

However, researcher Scherag warns of comparing countries: While tests are now being carried out widely on Sars-CoV-2 in Germany, tests are only being carried out very selectively in Italy due to the acute pressure, or there is a lack of tests as in the USA. For your own country under constant conditions, the development can still be read relatively well.

“As a rule, you can easily recognize trends within a region.” However, there is also one high number of unreported cases of infected people who, based on a current Chinese study, must be estimated to be ten times the available figures.

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So can’t you take all the numbers at face value? “This is not atomic physics that we have here,” says Scherag. No source provides 100 percent accurate data. But the German authorities and Johns Hopkins University have highly consistent data.

“This helps us to see whether the dynamics are changing and to plan measures,” says the professor. “And you can show the population what effect the current measures have. We all hope to slow down current developments in a similar way to South Korea. ”


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