During a session in the Bundestag, Merkel warned against possible setbacks as Germany learns to live with the virus. She also paid tribute to health workers.
“The basic facts have not changed,” Merkel said. As long as there is no treatment or vaccine, coronavirus continues to be a “danger for each and every one of us”.
Merkel said Germany could be satisfied with the way it has handled the pandemic so far. However, she urged people not to endanger what the country has achieved in slowing the spread of the coronavirus, adding the pandemic will be with us for some time.
“It would be depressing if we had to go back to the restrictions we want to leave behind because we want too much too quickly,” she said.
Germany has managed to slow the number of infections down, and largely keep the reproduction rate – which shows how many people with coronavirus infect others – below or around 1.
As of Wednesday May 13th, a total of 173,171 coronavirus infections had been registered in Germany, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. Of those cases, there have been around 7,738 deaths and 147,298 people have recovered.
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The number of new infections “lies within an area that our health system can cope with,” said Merkel, who also praised the “fabulous work” of the health authorities.
Members of parliament then put questions to Merkel on different topics. Here are a few of the highlights:
Tax increase: When asked whether the federal government was planning tax increases, the Chancellor said that was not on the cards at this point.
“As of today, there are no plans whatsoever to raise taxes and duties,” Merkel said.
In view of the situation of the economy and workers, Merkel referred to state aid such as short-time work (Kurzarbeit), liquidity support and the reduction of VAT for restaurateurs.
She said she was glad the pandemic had hit Germany while the country was in a stable economic situation. “We have the chance to cope with it well,” she said. “But I'm not saying nobody will notice a difference.”
Coronavirus infections in meatpacking districts: Merkel said action needed to be taken in view of coronavirus outbreaks in the workforces of meat factories, thought to be related to crowded housing conditions of workers.
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Authorities have temporarily closed the Westfleisch slaughterhouse in Coesfeld, North Rhine-Westphalia after news broke that a number of workers at the site had become infected with the coronavirus.
Labour Minister Hubertus Heil is to present a plan that will address the issues next Monday.
Merkel spoke of “frightening news” from the meat industry. “There are considerable shortcomings, especially in housing,” she said. She emphasized that local authorities were responsible for inspections of occupational health and safety standards.
European pandemic control: Merkel said that better European mechanisms and systems are needed to exchange information to prepare for the next pandemic.
Burden-sharing in EU climate protection: In the course of raising the EU's climate protection target for 2030, Merkel wants to renegotiate what share the individual member states have to contribute.
It's “quite natural” that new negotiations had to be held on the so-called burden sharing, she said.
At the end of April, Merkel had welcomed the EU Commission's plans to increase the 2030 target, without mentioning any conditions.
So far, greenhouse gas emissions are to be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. But the Commission wants to make the target 50 to 55 percent.
Germany already has a 55 percent goal for 2030. How much the members states have to contribute to the EU target depends on their prosperity, measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.