Why Germany’s coronavirus strategy doesn’t appear to be working this time around

Zeeb said a combination of factors had led to the latest upsurge in Covid-19 infections, including a relaxation of restrictions over the summer period. It was people returning to Germany from vacation, however, that was the main driver to the start of another wave, Zeeb said. This resulted in a “major workload” for local public health offices, as they then also had to test these returning citizens. 

“I wouldn’t say it was uncoordinated but there were some strange decisions taken in Bavaria and other places to test people even on highways and in different situations,” he said. 

Bavaria, Germany’s largest state, has had the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, at 119,505, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

It is the only federal state in Germany to have rolled out free coronavirus testing for everyone. The move raised concerns it would overwhelm testing centers when it was introduced in June. 

Indeed, Bavaria has experienced testing blunders since it introduced the policy, with backlogs and data entry issues

A spokesman for the Bavarian state ministry of health and care told CNBC via email that both of theses issues occurred once and “could be solved quickly.”

“The causes were clearly identified and solved,” he said. “The reasons were in one case a technical defect in a computer system and in the other case a process error or an error during the takeover of the test stations on the freeways by a new supplier.”

Nationally, Zeeb said the spread of the virus had now gone beyond clusters of cases into wider communities, making it harder to pinpoint the source of infection. 

The German government said on Monday that while 21.5 million people had downloaded its Corona-Warn-App, “regrettably only 60% of people testing positive pass on their contacts.” 

The first time round, Zeeb said Germany’s effective handling of the virus was helped by the fact that its epidemic “started in a young age group, which didn’t lead to a lot of severe cases right from the beginning,” giving it more time to prepare its health care system.   

Clear communication of pandemic science, helped by Merkel’s training as a scientist, has also been said to have contributed to its effectiveness. While the historical investment in Germany’s health care system and the rapid response in providing extra intensive care facilities, meant its hospitals didn’t become overwhelmed.