These figures provide the most important explanation for the low death rate, because the risk of dying from COVID-19 depends heavily on age. The risk of death for men over 80 is 57 times higher than it is for men between 40 and 59. Compared to 20 to 39-year-olds, the risk of death among the elderly is even 644 times higher.
There is no certainty that younger people will continue to represent the highest number of infections in the coming weeks and months, even if many older people are showing extreme caution and avoiding social outings to the extent possible. The experience from the spring shows us that when young people party, work, travel and get infected that, at some point, the virus will travel to the elderly as well.
“Older people will ultimately become infected, because families do eventually meet, which is why the virus won’t just remain among the young,” says Drosten.
“It’s a gamble,” explains Hodcroft. “The more the number of cases increases, the greater the likelihood that we will once again be seeing more elderly people becoming infected. The same thing happened in Sweden, despite the deliberate efforts made to shield the elderly.”
In Spain, where the number of infected persons has been dangerously high again for several weeks now, the number of deaths is also rising again.
And in Florida, relief that the virus had possibly become less terrifying was fleeting, and soon more and more elderly were getting infected, with many deaths. “We have to do everything we can to keep case numbers as low as possible,” says Hodcroft.
If you take a closer look at the situation in France, you can guess what German epidemiologists and politicians are afraid of.
For three months, the number of infections in Germany’s neighboring country remained at a low level, but they exploded in August. More than 7,000 cases are now being reported a day, with even more than 15,000 on some days. It appears that France has already crossed the point at which it is impossible to contain it.