The numbers of new coronavirus cases continue to decline in Germany after weeks of struggling to curb the global pandemic. The government is now taking small steps to ease out lockdown restrictions and restore normalcy. Meanwhile, a new study claims that the number of actual COVID-19 cases in the country might be as high as 10 times the number reported by the authorities.

According to Reuters, the preliminary results from a study conducted by the researchers from the University of Bonn found out that a whopping 1.8 million people living in Germany may have been infected by the pandemic disease, a deadly respiratory illness caused by novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. The conclusion of the study is based on a field trial conducted in one of the "worst-hit towns" of the country. However, the findings remain unreviewed by peers for publication in a scientific journal.

Researchers suggest that these numbers are 10 times the number of about 160,000 cases as confirmed by the officials. The scientists go on to claim that one in five of those infected people is asymptomatic. Therefore, the researchers insist that the study "serves as a reminder of the dangers of infection by unidentified carriers of the virus, some of whom show no symptoms."

The team led by medical researchers Hendrik Streeck and Gunther Hartmann studies samples of blood and nasal swabs acquired by 919 random people living in a district of Heinsberg. The town was dubbed as "Germany's Wuhan" after an explosion of coronavirus cases and recording the highest number of deaths due to the disease.

As per the news release by the university, the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia became the hotspot for the disease after a carnival celebration is believed to have triggered the contagious infection, leading to an outbreak. It is said that approximately 15 percent of the people of the Gangelt city of Heinsberg was infected.

"The results can be used to further improve models on the transmission behavior of the virus. Until now, the basis for such data has been relatively uncertain," said co-author of the study Gunther Hartmann, Director of the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology at the University Hospital Bonn and speaker of the Cluster of Excellence, ImmunoSensation.

The news release reports that the study provides the basis for further research on SARS-CoV-2 including the risk of infection based on demographic factors like age and gender, increased severity of illness due to special circumstances, and risk of infection within families. Additionally, the description of symptoms is another aspect that the study covers.

Italy eases coronavirus lockdown
Italy became the first Western democracy to shut down virtually everything in the face of COVID-19. Photo: AFP / Alberto PIZZOLI

"Which conclusions can be drawn from the study results depends on many factors that go beyond pure scientific considerations," said Prof. Streeck. "The evaluation of our findings and their impact on concrete decisions are the responsibility of society and politics," he added.