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ANGELA MERKEL

Merkel returns to office after two weeks in self-quarantine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel left her Berlin home for the first time in almost two weeks on Friday, after she was forced into quarantine following contact with a Covid-19-infected doctor.

Merkel returns to office after two weeks in self-quarantine
Angela Merkel with Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on February 12th. Photo: DPA

Merkel has returned to her office, where she will continue to observe social distancing rules and lead the country via video and audio conferencing, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin.

The 65-year-old leader had been in self-isolation at her flat in the German capital's museum district.

She learned on March 22nd that a doctor who gave her a vaccination two days before was infected with the virus.

Merkel was tested several times, with all tests coming back negative.

People who have come into contact with confirmed Covid-19 cases are generally advised to self-isolate for 14 days.

While in isolation, Merkel kept working and held government meetings via video link.

READ ALSO: 'Merkel is back': Coronavirus crisis boosts German chancellor

 

Last weekend she released an audio message thanking Germans for heeding the country's unprecedented confinement measures and avoiding unnecessary social contacts.

The chancellor's popularity has soared during the coronavirus crisis, with Germans impressed by her calm and measured response.

In a survey for public broadcaster ARD published Thursday, 64 percent of respondents said they were very satisfied or satisfied with Merkel's work – her highest approval rating since federal elections in 2017.

By Friday, Germany had recorded almost 80,000 coronavirus cases and 1,017 deaths, according to the Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

RKI chief Lothar Wieler said social distancing measures were proving effective.

“The spread of the virus is getting slower… it's working,” he told reporters, while stressing that restrictions on public life “need to be maintained” and it was too early to hail victory.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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