Updates on the German long-term care policy response to COVID-19

By Klara Lorenz-Dant (Care Policy and Evaluation Centre, London School of Economics and Political Science)

24th April 2020

This posts summarises very recent developments in the German long-term care policy responses to COVID-19 which are explained in more detail in the latest country report for Germany on this site.

The response to COVID-19 for people with long-term care needs in different settings in Germany is complex due to the federal structure of the country. Detailed recommendations for residential care settings and ambulatory care providers are provided by the Robert Koch-Institute (RKI). These recommendations receive regular updates as new evidence emerges. The federal government has passed legislation to support health and care providers during this pandemic and is supporting federal states in the procurement of protective equipment. On 23 April it was announced that care workers’ minimum wages will be increased in several steps over the next couple of years.

The authority for regulation lies largely with each of the 16 federal states. Each state has responded by implementing guidelines and bills, usually closely following RKI recommendations. Two states have announced bonus payment for care workers to recognise their important work during this crisis.

Of particular concern have been COVID-19 outbreaks in residential care settings. RKI recommendations include contract tracing within the care setting and the physical separations of residents into at least three zones (those without symptoms and no contact to cases, suspected cases and confirmed cases) in case of an outbreak.

On 22 April 2020 the RKI reported on care homes for the first time. There have been 15,266 COVID-19 infections recorded in care settings. Out of these, 8,258 were residents and 6,008 staff. 1,599 residents and 20 members of staff have been reported to have died. This amounts to about 1/3 of all registered deaths due to COVID-19 in Germany.

In most states, day and night care settings that usually support people with care needs living in the community had to close. Emergency support structures available for specific groups, but most responsibility has been passed on to unpaid carers. While some criteria for previously implemented financial support structures for people with long-term care needs living in the community and their unpaid carers have been loosened, there is little evidence of additional support for these groups besides the establishment of helplines.

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