Kovid-19 Sparks New East-West Divide in Germany – 30 Years After Reunion

SCHWERIN, Germany – A sharp difference in the number of coronovirus cases between West Germany and the former communist east has emerged as a new split three decades after reunification.

The bulk of East Germany once made it one of the five states affected by the epidemic. (Berlin, formerly located but politically divided in the Cold War, has moved less well).

No scientific study has analyzed the phenomenon, but virologists, economists and politicians say part of the explanation may lie in the underlying East-West differences that still exist – a legacy of 41 years of isolation that began on 3 October , Ended 1990. The two Germans signed the agreement that they received again. Long-term working factors, including aging, less affluent populations, may have shielded it from Kovid-19.

Schwerin has not recorded a single Kovid-19 death.

“It is very surprising that this gap is running along the boundary of the east,” said Hajo Zeib, a researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Prevention Research and Epidemiology in Brazen. “But for once, it is for the benefit of the former.”

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, a northeastern state the size of New Jersey, has the lowest infection per capita in Germany: 75 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, or seven times less than in Bavaria. Its state capital, Schwerin, has not recorded a single Kovid-19 death.

The government’s latest post-revaluation report, published in September, emphasized the progress of eastern states in economically capturing eastern states, but acknowledged that many inequalities persisted. East Germany’s GDP per capita was 79% of the national average in 2019, and only 73% excluding Berlin.

Kovid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

Kovid-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants

East West / East Germany border

Kovid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

Kovid-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants

East west

Germany border

Kovid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

Kovid-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants

East west

Germany border

Kovid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants

East west

Germany border

Kovid-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants

East Germany is less densely populated than the West, more so in rural areas and still lacks industrial hubs and large corporations. Financially, these characteristics have long been weak. But in an epidemic, he has helped.

“We counted off as too much,” said Stephen Burchhardt, administrator of Jeriver Land, a district in the state of Saxony-Antal that has one of the lowest population densities in the most populous countries in Europe. Mr. Burkard believes the virus is limited by the spread: “Even in our city centers, there is never congestion.”

While East and West have gradually changed economically over the past 30 years, they have changed population growth. Some 2.2 million East Germans left from 1990 to 2019, most in the West looking for jobs. Saxony-Anhalt lost a quarter of its population. Meanwhile, West Germany gained 5.4 million people, partially boosted by foreign immigration.

The population of East Germany is also old. Mr Zeeb thinks it may help explain the reduced infection, as the virus was spread by both young people last winter and is now spreading widely in the country in a second wave of infection. With an average age of 47, all eastern states surpass the national average of 44.5.

Deposition since 1990 due to stiff competition in the state, Parchu in Saxony-Untal.

When Wilfrid and Walrotot Just, now aged 73 and 66 respectively, moved to a gray prefab building on the outskirts of Sherwin in 1985, they remembered that there were over 100 children living there. The beach near the city’s lake was packed in such heat that one could see the sand.

Ms. Just said, “There are a lot of old people here now and we don’t go out a lot.”

The old beachfront hotel at Zippendorfer Beach in Schwerin has been vacant since the 1990s.

Some scientists say the low density does not explain why large East German cities such as Rostock, Leipzig or Dresden also have fewer cases than cities of similar size in West Germany.

A more laudable explanation, Emil Risinger, a virologist at the University Clinic in Rostock, said that fewer people travel abroad than in East Germany. The main international airports are located around the western trading centers in Munich and Frankfurt. The distance to the Alps also means fewer East Germans go skiing in Austria and northern Italy, from where the virus spreads rapidly last winter, he said.

Kerstin Weiss, the administrator of a district north of Kerstin, also points to the average disposable income of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania — the lowest in Germany — which means residents have less to spend on expensive holidays.

As Europe suffers from a second wave of coronovirus cases, data suggest that tourism has helped spread the virus.

Many local politicians stated the fact that East Germany was not particularly difficult when the virus first arrived, implying that it had got its head in the making.

“We went into lockdown when we were still ahead of the wave,” said Sherwin Mayor Rico Badensier. When Schwerin filed his first case on March 11, Bavaria’s count had already risen to 120. Schools in both states closed on 16 March.

In Rostock, Mayor Clause Ruhe Madsen canceled a big pop concert the next day to explore the first two cases in the city. In addition, Carnival celebrations, extremely popular in the Catholic West but largely unknown in the Protestant or atheistic East, turned out to be a main driver of the first major outbreak.

In early April the eastern city of Jena became the first city in Germany to mandate the wearing of masks, a study by the University of Mange said that it limited the spread of the virus.

Prefabricated blocks were built in East Germany in the 1970s and 80s. Today, they are often the homes of the poorest.

On 23 April, Mr Madsen declared Rostock “corona free” after two weeks without new cases. The mayor said his phone was warmed by calls from where Brazilians want to know how the city did it.

Schwerin did not have any new infections between mid-May and mid-July, so it temporarily closes its testing center. In East Germany the transition has increased again, mostly through the return of the holidays, but politicians say the situation is largely under control.

There are also subcultural cultural differences, which may go some way to explain the earlier low transition levels. Mr. Reisinger, virologist, said he was living in Rostock as an Austrian that people embraced him very little there.

Postdoctoral researcher Hill Hillmar of the University of Bremen said research has shown that the generation of East Germans who grew up under communism retreated more socially than West Germans. And, he said, there is evidence from sociological studies that they are more willing to accept government intervention in their lives.

77-year-old Margit Heinrich of Rostock visited Sharwin for the day, saying he felt “more obeying Ossis rules,” still using the nickname given to people in East Germany. He said, “This case was back then and now it is the case.”

Whatever the reasons for the decline of the Kovid-19 cases, economists say that the structural losses that lagged the economy of the past could help it to suffer from the epidemic.

The Munich-based Ifo Institute for Economic Research forecast a 5.9% contraction in East Germany’s GDP this year, down from an estimated 6.7% nationwide due to the large proportion of hard-hit manufacturing industries in the West.

“East Germany is a bit lucky to have less industry, and its industry is more local or regional,” said Joachim Ragnitz from Eo’s Dresden branch.

Write Ruth Bender at [email protected]

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