‘The trend can’t continue’: Merkel rules out easing coronavirus rules as German cases spike

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned on Tuesday there could be no further relaxation of coronavirus restrictions while Germany grapples with a surge in new infections.

'The trend can't continue': Merkel rules out easing coronavirus rules as German cases spike
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

She urged Germans to follow the rules on hygiene precautions and reminded travellers returning from risk areas that quarantine was not an option “but a must” so long as they could not show a negative test.

Germany was seen as an early success story in suppressing the virus but its progress has been undermined in recent weeks as numbers have crept up over the summer holidays.

Much of the rise has been blamed on returning holidaymakers as well as parties and family gatherings.

Germany has in recent weeks reported an average of well over 1,000 new cases a day, compared with around 350 in early June.

READ ALSO: Germany warns local coronavirus outbreaks are 'mostly connected with celebrations'

“The number of cases across Germany has doubled over the past three weeks,” said Merkel “This is a trend that cannot continue and must be halted.

“I believe there can be no further loosening (of restrictions) at this point.

“When I say we need to pull in the reins I mean the rules need to be enforced very consistently.”

Germany earlier this month introduced free, mandatory tests for people returning from areas deemed a high risk for Covid-19 infections.

People awaiting their results must stay in quarantine at home until the test comes back negative, Merkel said, warning that those who fail to comply faced fines.

She also welcomed tougher checks on compliance with hygiene precautions on buses and trains, such as mask-wearing and keeping a physical distance from others.

“If we comply with all of this the good news is that much of public life can carry on, everyone can do their bit,” Merkel said.

Merkel said the priority was to “keep economic life going” to protect jobs and to keep schools and daycare centres open.

School children across Germany have started returning to the classroom after the summer holidays, facing a slew of new regulations such as staggered arrival times and mask wearing in a bid to contain the spread of the virus and avoid new school closures.

As of Tuesday Germany had recorded a total of 225,404 coronavirus cases and 9,236 fatalities.

Tougher measures

Merkel spoke out during a visit to the most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). The Chancellor was attending the state cabinet meeting for the first time after being invited by NRW premier Armin Laschet.

It comes around a month after Merkel visited the Bavarian state cabinet in the plush surroundings of Herrenchiemsee Castle, which led media to speculate if state premier Markus Söder was being endorsed as her successor.

IN PICTURES: Merkel receives the royal treatment in Bavaria

Laschet, who's also a possible successor for Merkel when she steps down as Chancellor next year, called for tougher measures against the spread of the virus.

In the current health and economic pandemic situation, “close cooperation between the federal and state governments is more important than ever” he added.

NRW state premier Armin Laschet elbow bumping with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

According to German daily Bild, Merkel had warned at the presidium meeting of her party on Monday of an escalating situation. “You have to tighten the reins in order not to run into a corona disaster,” she reportedly said.

Merkel visit 'important signal' for NRW

Merkel and Laschet were also set to visit the Zollverein coal mine. The Chancellor's visit was an “important signal” for the Ruhr area and the entire state, Laschet said.

“All the major challenges that have to be overcome in Germany are particularly evident in North Rhine-Westphalia,” he said. With around 18 million residents, NRW is the most populous state in Germany – and currently records the highest number of new coronavirus infections per day.

Laschet welcomed Merkel with an elbow bump. The Chancellor discreetly pointed out the coronavirus distance rules to him. 

Laschet offers a gift to Merkel. Photo: DPA

Nearby, dozens of lignite opponents and critics of coronavirus protection measures protested separately but loudly.

Merkel was welcomed by the state cabinet with two gifts. Laschet presented the Chancellor with Beethoven's collected works on CD and an aerial view of the city of Templin in Brandenburg, where Merkel grew up, from 1929.

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Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens ‘among new infections’

Two teenage boys between the ages of 15-17 have reportedly been infected by monkeypox, as the number of cases in Germany continues to grow.

Monkeypox in Germany: Two teens 'among new infections'

German news site Spiegel Online first reported the new cases – which are an anomaly for a virus as it has mostly affected gay men – following an inquiry to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). 

They are among a total of 2,677 people who are confirmed to have contracted the virus in Germany to date. There have not been any fatalities.

Out of these, only five cases were women, according to the RKI. The public health institute said that it does not release information on individual cases.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany wants to contain the monkeypox

The disease – which is not usually fatal – often manifests itself through fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions and droplets of a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding and towels.

Many of the cases known so far concern homosexual and bisexual men. However, affected people and experts have repeatedly warned against stigmatising gay communities.

How fatal is the disease?

The first monkeypox cases were reported in Germany on May 20th, as the disease continued to spread in West Europe.

At the weekend, the first two deaths outside of West Africa were reported in Spain.

READ ALSO: WHO warns ‘high’ risk of monkeypox in Europe as it declares health emergency

The RKI has urged people returning from West Africa and in particular gay men, to see their doctors quickly if they notice any chances on their skin.

According to the latest estimates, there are 23,000 monkeypox cases worldwide, and Europe is particularly affected with 14,000 cases.

There have been 2,677 monkeypox cases in Germany as of August 2, 2022. Photo: CDC handout

About eight percent of patients in Europe have been hospitalised so far, reported the World Health Association on Monday, mostly due to severe pain or additional infections.

In general, the mortality of the variant currently circulating in Europe is estimated to be low.

READ ALSO: More cases of monkeypox ‘expected’ in Germany

Will a vaccine make a difference?

Since July, a vaccine has been authorised in 27 EU member states and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. 

The Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) recommends vaccination against monkeypox in Germany for certain risk groups and people who have had close contact with infected people.

So far, the German government has ordered 240,000 vaccine doses, of which 40,000 had been delivered by Friday. 

Around 200,000 doses are set to follow by the end of September. 

The German Aids Federation (DAH) on Friday called for one million vaccine doses, stressing that the current supplies will fall short of meeting need.

“The goal must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and to get the epidemic permanently under control,” explained Ulf Kristal of the DAH board in Berlin on Friday.

But this is only possible, he said, if as many people at risk of infection as possible are vaccinated.

“We don’t assume the epidemic will be over when the doses available so far have been vaccinated,” Axel Jeremias Schmidt, Epidemiologist and DAH Consultant for Medicine and Health Policy, wrote in a press release.

As long as there are monkeypox infections, he said, people who are at risk must be offered vaccination.