Germany has increased its number of COVID-19 tests to 500,000 per week, a German scientist said on Thursday.

“The reason why Germany has so little deaths compared to its number of confirmed cases can be explained by the fact that we have a lot of laboratory diagnoses,” said Dr Christian Drosten from Berlin’s Charité University Hospital.

“We do 500,000 tests every week in Germany,” he added.

Germany has been heavily hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 36,508 confirmed cases, but has only counted 198 deaths so far – a much small proportion than its European neighbours, such as France or Italy.

The country has one of the lowest death rate of COVID-19, with 0.5 per cent – compared to France’s 5.2 per cent and Spain’s 7 per cent, for example.

German researchers plan to regularly test more than 100,000 people to see if they have overcome infection with COVID-19 to track its spread, an institute behind the plan confirmed on Friday (March 27).

Heyo Kroemer, director of Charité University Hospital, said Germany also started to test earlier than other countries.

Dr Drosten said that the vast networks of laboratories across Germany had helped in organising the testings quickly and on a big scale.

Germany’s health ministry has said it will invest €500 million to develop the links between hospitals and laboratories.

This network will also be used to analyse data on all COVID-19 patients, so as to build a database with their medical backgrounds.