Coronavirus outbreak has become a 'global pandemic' says German Health Minister

AFP/The Local
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Coronavirus outbreak has become a 'global pandemic' says German Health Minister

The coronavirus outbreak has turned into "a global pandemic", German Health Minister Jens Spahn said Wednesday, warning that worse was still to come.


The situation in Germany and across Europe had changed drastically in recent days, he said, with Germany reporting a sharp uptick to 240 cases.

"The coronavirus outbreak in China has become a global pandemic," Spahn told German lawmakers in the Bundestag.

"The situation is changing very quickly," he said. "What's clear is that we have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far stopped short of declaring a pandemic – defined as an epidemic that spreads throughout the world through local transmission.

But it has urged countries to prepare for a potential pandemic.

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The number of novel coronavirus cases in the world has now risen to more than 93,000, including 3,201 deaths across 81 countries and territories.

Spahn added that Germany was continually analysing the situation in a bid to slow down the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Germany.

"When cancelling major events and closing schools and daycare centres, the principle applies: the safety of the population takes precedence – even over economic interests," he added.

He added that the government was also updating its medical guidelines to make sure that overstretched health workers concentrate their efforts "on the most acute" cases if the outbreak worsens.

That could also mean that non-urgent surgeries might be postponed, he said, stressing however that "we aren't there yet".

As of Wednesday morning, 240 people were reported to have contracted the virus in Germany, the bulk of them in North Rhine-Westphalia state where a couple with coronavirus attended carnival celebrations last month.

But cases have been confirmed in all of Germany's 16 states except for the eastern Saxony-Anhalt.

Meanwhile, Germany's Interior Ministry said it had banned exports of medical protection gear such as masks and gloves to ensure health workers in the country have enough to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

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"The next days and weeks will be challenging," said Spahn. "There will be restrictions on everyday life in affected areas and that can cause some stress."

But he said the government was working closely with regional states and European partners to respond to the virus "in a cool-headed way" and take "appropriate measures".


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