Germany gets a lot of favorable Covid-19 press these days — and for good reason. Its daily new cases per million people have been persistently lower than any of its Western European neighbors, and its death rate, from the beginning of the outbreak, has been among the lowest in Western Europe: currently 0.15 deaths per million people, compared to France’s 1.15 and Spain’s 2.75.
Even as coronavirus cases surge across the continent — the week prior to October 11 saw the largest weekly increase in cases since the beginning of the pandemic — Germany’s latest wave is still small relative to other countries in the region.
So what exactly is Germany getting right?
What’s often cited is an effective deployment of technology, in particular a contact tracing app, to fight the pandemic. It also helps that Angela Merkel has a PhD in quantum chemistry and heads a country that treats scientists, like the Berlin-based virologist and podcaster Christian Drosten, like superstars. Then there’s the frequently praised mass testing program that rivals South Korea’s, and the oversupply of ICU beds — controversial before the coronavirus, now lauded.
Yet this is far from the whole story of Germany’s relative success.
Over the past few weeks, I talked to doctors, health officials, and researchers in Germany— including some of the country’s first Covid-19 responders — and elsewhere to get a deeper perspective on why Germany has had better-than-average pandemic performance in Europe.
I heard, again and again, four explanations for the country’s coronavirus success. They had nothing to do with tech, Merkel, or hospital beds. And they’ve been largely overlooked.
Let’s call them the L’s: luck, learning, local responses, and listening. While the pandemic certainly isn’t over, and Germany is facing a pivotal moment with cases rising again, these may be the reason Germany bends the curve quickly once again.
The power of luck
Dr. Günter Fröschl, a tropical medicine doctor at Munich University, has been leading Germany’s longest-running Covid-19 testing unit. He’s been at it so long, he swabbed four of the first five coronavirus patients in late January. At that time, his fiancée — another infectious disease specialist — happened to be working in Brescia, Italy, ground zero of Europe’s deadliest Covid-19 outbreak. The two were on the phone every day comparing notes, and Fröschl concluded the only reason the paths of the two countries diverged so widely early on in the pandemic was something both countries had no control over.
“We had a lot of luck in Germany,” Fröschl says.
The first known Covid-19 cases in Germany originated in a Munich-area auto parts firm called Webasto. There, an employee from China — who tested positive for the virus after returning home — infected several others during a visit to Munich. When she notified her German counterparts of her positive test result, the company informed its staff, including one employee who, despite not having serious symptoms, sought out a test.
“The patient came to us and said, ‘I had a common cold for a few days. I’m feeling fine — but we did have a Chinese colleague coming to visit us who tested positive,’” Fröschl recalls. The fact that this patient came forward meant public health officials were able to identify, trace, and isolate other cases, and instead of a large and silent outbreak early on in the pandemic, health authorities stopped the virus from spreading further at that point.
There was another element of luck involved: The Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology in Munich is home to a biosafety level 3 lab — the kind that deals with highly infectious and deadly agents that can spread through inhalation, like SARS-CoV-2. When China released the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus in January, Fröschl’s colleagues at the institute got ready with coronavirus PCR tests. That meant the test was available in Munich when the first patients showed up there, and Fröschl was able to use it to quickly diagnose the first cases. “The index patient was meeting this unique situation in Europe,” Fröschl says. “That is luck. It’s not that we were so smart.”
It wasn’t just Munich that had tests ready. In Berlin, scientists created the test kit the World Health Organization and many countries ended up using even before China released the sequence of the virus. But Fröschl points out that if that first patient had shown up in a less prepared part of the country, the outcome may have been different — perhaps something more like what happened in Italy, where cases went undetected for weeks and then overwhelmed the health system. “I’m always emphasizing,” Fröschl says, “we were just lucky.”
The power of learning
Of course, Germany’s relative success managing the coronavirus isn’t only about luck. It’s also about learning and acting quickly on new knowledge. After the Webasto cluster came under control, Fröschl and his colleagues got to work applying what they learned from the experience — establishing protocols for diagnosing, isolating, and treating Covid-19 patients safely.
This meant that by the end of February, when travelers started returning from Austria, Italy, and other countries with outbreaks, they were ready. The Webasto outbreak gave doctors and public health officials “extremely valuable” experience dealing with the virus. “Everything was in place,” Fröschl says. “We had experience of how to treat people and remain calm.”
There was also learning from other countries. “We tried to take the strategy of South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan — all good examples of how a quick and fast response can reduce number of positive cases,” said Nicolai Savaskan, the chief medical officer of a local health department in Berlin. One part of that fast response: Germany’s mass testing program.
While Germany was quick to lock down, it also scaled up testing from the start of the pandemic, and then repeatedly adapted the program to respond to changes in demand.
In anticipation of a rise in cases following summer travel, for example, labs across the country scaled up their supply. You can see the result of this in the country’s test positive — or cases divided by tests — rate. This metric tells you whether a country’s testing capacity is rising in step with the demand for testing and growth in real cases. Since the beginning of May, relatively early in the pandemic, Germany’s test positive rate has held steady even though cases have increased, while the rate started to rise in July and August in other European countries currently experiencing the worst outbreaks, including France, Spain, and the UK.
“There have been ups and downs in Germany’s [outbreak], but the difference is they managed to scale up testing,” said Edouard Mathieu, the Paris-based data manager of Oxford University’s Our World in Data project. From May to the present, Germany went from around 60,000 tests per day to 160,000. And even now, Germany is again adapting its testing approach: adding a new rapid, antigen-testing strategy that will launch this week, the Wall Street Journal reported, to increase capacity as cases rise going into winter.
This also helps explain why outbreaks in the country — or even screw-ups like failing to notify positive cases quickly — haven’t spun out of control, as we’ve seen in other countries. “They are testing more people every time they find a case, which means they haven’t lost touch with the epidemic,” Mathieu said. It also means they didn’t waste their early lockdown: They used it to build a robust testing program that’ll help them control the current uptick, too.
The power of local responses
Germany, a federal country made up of 16 states with some 400 municipal health departments, ran a localized coronavirus response.
Though this has sometimes led to a confusing array of policies, it’s also meant municipal governments could act quickly and tailor pandemic policies to the needs and challenges facing local populations across 16 federal states with 400-plus counties.
And this may be another reason for Germany’s success compared to neighbors with more centralized systems such as France, Spain, and the UK.
“The decentralized [approach to] managing the pandemic was maybe a good way to deal with a quickly changing situation,” said Berlin’s Savaskan. He explained that while local health authorities have to report cases to Germany’s national public health agency, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), they could each tailor their pandemic responses to meet local needs in their region and react quickly whenever problems arose.
So, for example, while the RKI recommended a 14-day quarantine after contact with an infected person, in Berlin, health authorities decided that was too long to be acceptable for the population and that a seven-day quarantine with a coronavirus test at that point would do. “We could adapt what was recommended by RKI and then implement … [to] locally fit the needs of the people,” Savaskan said.
Similarly, early on in the pandemic, in March, Berlin decided to shutdown bars, dance halls, and nightclubs ahead of other regions, since they were local sources of contagion. When they reopened in June, municipal health authorities were in constant contact with the industry to encourage them to cooperate in contact tracing.
“We have a rate of contact tracing higher than 90 percent,” Savaskan said, meaning nearly all the contacts of infected people are being identified and followed up with.
When we talked at the end of September, Savaskan was heading to meet the health minister in Berlin, along with representatives of the bar and nightclub industries. Outbreaks in these settings were on the rise again, and politicians wanted to engage local health departments on how to get the situation under control with industry members present. By October 10, a midnight curfew for bars and clubs went into effect.
“The narrative so far in Germany concerning the public health departments is that people trust in them — they believe that when they give very detailed information about their life, this is taken very seriously. And I think this is the major impact of the success of the German response,” Savaskan said. It’s also allowed authorities to identify and stop chains of infection at an early stage.
The power of listening to scientists
There’s one other L that sets Germany apart. It’s the most straightforward of them all — but it’s certainly not being done in many countries, particularly the US. As soon as the coronavirus arrived in Germany, German authorities have been good about listening to scientists, says Clemens-Martin Wendtner, a Munich-based internal medicine doctor. Wendtner would know: He was also part of Germany’s coronavirus front line, overseeing the treatment of the country’s first patients in Munich.
He, too, didn’t mention Angela Merkel, when I asked him how he explains how Germany managed to control the coronavirus. Instead, he said local politicians did something that now seems like a foreign concept in America: They listen to scientists.
Since February, Wendtner has been texting new findings and insights to the health minister in Bavaria — the German state that’s home to Munich — every week. And during the first weeks of the pandemic, before heading to the hospital, he’d join a 9 am briefing in the office of the health ministry to share his data there, too.
“Every [piece of] information we had from the hospital, they also had from the political decision side,” he said.
So that’s why Germany instituted a mandatory mask policy in public spaces in the spring, and shut down schools. That’s why Jens Spahn, the federal minister of health, retracted the idea of Covid-19 immunity passports after listening to scientists. “He used the direct approach, just calling me here in my office,” Wendtner said.
As the science evolved and leaders listened to scientists, the policies keep changing. Recently, the Bavarian government decided to invest 50 million euros in hepafilters that deactivate infectious aerosols for use in classrooms across the state. “It’s not reasonable to open the window in Bavaria every 20 minutes” in winter, Wentner said. So going into winter, and acknowledging the scientific insight that the coronavirus can spread through aerosols, especially in poorly ventilated rooms, meant filters might help keep schools open.
Of course, science hasn’t been free of politics in Germany. And in the race to find a successor for Merkel, state politicians have certainly used the pandemic to increase their profile. But the big picture, Wentner says, is that the public trusted German politicians “because they didn’t lie in the beginning and [they] built up trust,” following science, not denying it.
Millions turn to Vox each month to understand what’s happening in the news, from the coronavirus crisis to a racial reckoning to what is, quite possibly, the most consequential presidential election of our lifetimes. Our mission has never been more vital than it is in this moment: to empower you through understanding. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone make sense of an increasingly chaotic world: Contribute today from as little as $3.
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.
Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.
The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.
In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.
Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.
It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.
Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.
Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.
Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.
The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”
At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.
On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.
Open Sourced is made possible by Omidyar Network. All Open Sourced content is editorially independent and produced by our journalists.
The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.
Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year
From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.
Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.
From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.
“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.
Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.
The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.
Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.
Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.
Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.
Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Calls for urgent reduction of violence
Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.
Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.
“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.
There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.
1/4 I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.
But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.
The 10 Best Deals of November 23, 2020
Too bright to breed
Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home
Astros bash way past Athletics to reach ALCS
Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum
Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home
Sports2 months ago
Astros bash way past Athletics to reach ALCS
Tech4 weeks ago
Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum
Sports2 weeks ago
Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home
Tech4 months ago
Check out some wonderful Playdate game demos, including a low-fi Doom
Food2 months ago
Puerto Rican Piñon
Tech4 months ago
Still no first stimulus check? How to track it and report your absent payment to the IRS – CNET
Tech4 months ago
Spotify Duo vs. Family vs. Individual: Which Premium Spotify plan is best? – CNET
Science3 months ago
Elon Musk promises demo of a working Neuralink device on Friday