Coronavirus: why are so many hospitals still empty?

Coronavirus: why are so many hospitals still empty?

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Empty hospitals despite pandemic - how does that fit together?

At the moment, videos are frequently shown on social media, showing people walking around in hospitals and wondering why there is so little activity there, even though we are in the middle of a pandemic. Why are so many hospitals underutilized despite the Corona crisis?

The relatively empty hospitals are interpreted by some people as meaning that there is no pandemic at all and that the crisis has been artificially brought about. In fact, utilization in many clinics is currently normal or even low. Coronavirus expert Professor Christian Drosten, head of virology at Charité Berlin, explains why in his NDR podcast.

The water pulls back

The virologist confirmed to the NDR that many hospitals, including the Charité in Berlin, are in a phase where there are currently relatively few severe COVID-19 cases in the wards. Highly specialized teams are waiting for the rush to start every day - however, in the back of the mind, many health workers hope that the rush will not come. Many feel - similar to a tsunami - as if they were standing on the beach and the water is going down. Now everyone knows that the water will come back, but nobody knows how violent the tide will be.

Germany tests more than other countries

The virologist Drosten has several reasons for the low workload. On the one hand, many operations that could be planned were postponed and hospital beds were kept free for serious cases. In addition, they reacted early in Germany and initiated comprehensive countermeasures. In addition, Germany had one of the best diagnostics in the world in the corona crisis. In contrast to many other countries, a large number of cases with mild symptoms could be followed and identified in Germany.

According to Drosten, this has the follow-up effect that the average age of the sick in Germany is relatively young compared to many other countries and that the younger people are more likely to have a mild course. The average age of those affected by COVID-19 in Germany is currently 48 years. This is also one of the reasons why the death toll is significantly lower compared to Spain and Italy.

In addition, the Corona cases are unevenly distributed within the Federal Republic. While federal states such as Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia are severely affected, the coronavirus spreads more slowly in other federal states. According to Drosten, the transfer of people with corona to less affected states is being considered in order to distribute the disease burden more evenly.

Test capacity cap reached

Professor Drosten also points out that the upper limit of the test capacities has already been exhausted. "We just have to adjust to it realistically, so confusing the market situation in the diagnostics market is that we may not be able to put anything more on top of what we have now," the coronavirus expert told NDR.

It is likely that a change in the test strategy will take place in the near future and will be tested more specifically, said Drosten. For example, a test can only be carried out if there are severe symptoms or if the person concerned belongs to a risk group. In Germany, too, one has to prepare for a proportionate and general increase in the number of deaths.

The situation can change quickly

Two videos by the Italian virologist Matteo Bassetti illustrate how quickly things can change. At the end of February, Bassetti was still a skeptic and claimed on YouTube that the virus was harmless. This video is still being disseminated today and gives a picture that is not up to date, because the doctor has long since withdrawn his statements, as he announced in an interview with the North German radio in the context of the research format "strg_f".

"Now the situation is different," emphasizes Bassetti. A remarkable difference had developed within five weeks. Many old people with comorbidities die, but younger people are now among the victims. "What was true back then is no longer true!" There is a disaster in Italy. "This is not a joke, it is a real threat and it will be a nightmare if you are not prepared," concludes Bassetti.

What if the rush fails to appear?

If, contrary to expectations, there is no great rush to hospitals, many will believe that the measures were not justified. Drosten comments: “There is no glory in prevention, because there is no glory in the prevention of illnesses, because these illnesses never occurred.” In retrospect, one could not know what had been prevented. A look at countries such as Spain, Italy and the United States could help to understand what the disease can do in a system comparable to ours if the measures are taken only a few weeks late. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Ndr: Coronavirus update (24): We have to be patient (published: 30.03.2020),

Video: On shift in a New York hospital overwhelmed by coronavirus patients (May 2022).


  1. Ptah

    I don't believe you

  2. Khayyat

    Sleep on it.

  3. Clintwood

    Such is a life. There's nothing to be done.

  4. Xuthus

    I am sure you were deceived.

  5. Lindley

    What exactly would you like to say?

Write a message