How are foreigners treated in Germany?

Corona: The social status counts, not the origin

It was a report with terrifying figures that the "Bild-Zeitung", Germany's largest tabloid, published at the beginning of last week: Among the people who would have to be treated in intensive care after infections with the coronavirus in Germany would be there are very many people with a history of migration.

Did politics want to keep the numbers secret?

The newspaper reported on discussions between the President of the Robert Koch Institute, Lothar Wieler, and chief physicians at several large clinics, who reported that up to 90 percent of people with foreign roots were among the intensive care patients.

Wouldn't politicians and scientists, so the tacit message of this report, prefer not to reveal these figures in order not to expose themselves to accusations of xenophobia?

Wieler: "An informal, personal conversation"

Apparently the figures given by the Bild newspaper are wrong. A few days later, at the federal press conference in Berlin, Wieler put the key message of the report into perspective, especially if statements by individual doctors were extrapolated to the whole country.

RKI President Lothar Wieler: "There were only informal discussions with some doctors"

But he confirms the conversations with the doctors: "It is a personal conversation, an informal exchange in which we considered various things but made no final conclusions. The Robert Koch Institute does not have such data, and According to Section 11 of the Infection Protection Act, this data is also not recorded. "

Pandemic is an extreme challenge for migrants

The proportion of people in Germany who do not have a German passport is around 13 percent of the total population. The pandemic is an extreme challenge, especially for the small part of this group who speak or understand German poorly, especially for the many refugees who came to the country after 2015.

They often live in cramped conditions, and it is difficult to access public information, for example on the progress of travel restrictions and domestic requirements.

There are no numbers for the whole country

It would therefore be no wonder if the proportion of people with a history of migration among the infected and sick is higher than that of the rest of society. But there are no reliable figures for the whole country. Case numbers are reported to the Robert Koch Institute from the clinics and the health authorities, which have been anonymized.

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The spokesman for Health Minister Jens Spahn, Sebastian Guelde, added: "We have repeatedly pointed out, including the Robert Koch Institute, that language barriers and the different access to health information are of course very important factors for people's health . Other questions that naturally play a role are socio-economic factors, i.e. the world of work, living conditions in general, living conditions for example. "

Decide on status, living conditions and work situation

In fact, the Berlin “Tagesspiegel” reported from clinics in the capital that a noticeable number of men from large families from the Arab region or Turkey were being treated. There have often been arguments with family members who did not want to come to terms with the Corona ban on visiting the wards.

However, these doctors also pointed out that both an infection and knowledge of the pandemic have a lot to do with social status and less with origin. In short: those who are poor, who live in tight quarters, are more likely to fall ill. And also who has to work under often precarious conditions.

Medical sociologist: "The poor have more severe disease"

The medical sociologist Nico Dragano from the University Clinic in Düsseldorf points out an important difference in this context: one must distinguish between the risk of becoming infected and the risk of suffering a severe course of the disease.

The social status is important: In metropolitan areas like here in Berlin-Neukölln, the risk of infection increases

Dragano said in an interview with DW: "There are certain pre-existing conditions that increase the risk that you will have a severe course if you become infected. These are, for example, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes. These are all diseases that people are into Concern poverty more often. "

Many doctors and nurses are migrants

A connection that the "Organization for Cooperation and Development" (OECD) noted last year, and not only for Germany. The OECD study also found that migrants, on average across 37 OECD countries, would make up 24 percent of doctors and 16 percent of nurses, putting them at the forefront of the fight against the virus.

Even at the height of the anti-corona measures with their border closings, governments, for example, made exceptions to the entry of foreign harvest workers, including the federal government in Berlin.

Ministry educates in many languages

The language problem remains. Health ministry spokesman Guelde emphasizes that his house is aware of this challenge: "The information material on the vaccination campaign, for example, has now been translated into ten foreign languages. And the service numbers 116, 117 will also be available in four other languages ​​from mid-March, namely English, Turkish, Arabic and Russian are available. " How exactly the affected groups will actually be reached by this information remains to be seen.