“Some things are likely to be more difficult over the next few months than they are in the summer,” Merkel said.
“We have all enjoyed the freedoms and relative protection from aerosols in the summer, which is possible through life outdoors,” she said, referring to micro-particles that are thought to spread through the air, especially in enclosed spaces.
“In the coming months, it will now be important to keep infection rates low when we are back indoors – at workplaces, in schools and in homes,” Merkel said.
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Researchers around the world – including in Germany – are working towards a vaccine, she said, but one has not been discovered yet.
“We will have to live with this virus even longer, and that is why my basic attitude is one of vigilance, of attention,” said Merkel.
“This is especially true now, when the number of infections has risen again so significantly over the last few weeks,” Merkel said. “The fact remains: it is serious, as serious as ever. Continue to take it seriously.”
Merkel's comments came after she agreed a wave of new measures with the leaders of Germany's 16 federal states on Thursday designed to combat rising case numbers in Germany blamed mainly on summer travel and private parties.
The measures include a minimum fine of €50 for anyone caught without a face mask in places where wearing one is compulsory, a ban on large events until the end of the year and new quarantine rules for travellers.
“Not everything will be the same as before the pandemic, it will hit us hard and existentially,” Merkel said.
Germany has fared relatively well in its battle to contain the virus so far but like many other European countries has seen a new surge in cases in recent weeks.
On Friday it reported 1,571 new cases, bringing the total to 239,507, according to the Robert Koch disease control institute.
The country has so far recorded 9,288 deaths.