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Merkel says Covid-19 restrictions ‘are among most difficult decisions’ in her career

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says trying to control the spread of Covid-19 in Germany has been one of the toughest times of her career.

Merkel says Covid-19 restrictions 'are among most difficult decisions' in her career
Angela Merkel on November 9th. Photo: DPA

Speaking at the Economic Summit in Berlin on Tuesday, Merkel showed understanding for the heavy strain that residents in Germany are under during the crisis, reported Spiegel.

Merkel said she was aware that the contact restrictions in particular were a “burden on democracy”. But they are unavoidable, she stressed.

“These decisions are among the most difficult of my term in office,” said Merkel.

Nevertheless, Merkel called for more effort from people in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. “At the moment the situation remains serious, I would even say very serious,” she said.

On Monday state leaders put a brake on the federal government's draft proposals to introduce new measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Merkel had hoped to push through new measures, such as tougher contact restrictions and halving class sizes in schools.

READ ALSO:

The Chancellor said she would have preferred to implement these stricter lockdown measures. Instead, the government and states agreed to put plans on hold and urgently recommended that people cut down on contacts. The discussion will be resumed next week.

“Every day counts in the fight against coronavirus,” said Merkel. “If we waited until the intensive care beds were fully occupied, it would be too late.”

Merkel said infection numbers weren't growing exponentially anymore, “but are still far too high. So we have to reduce contacts, reduce contacts, reduce contacts.

“I do regret that things sometimes move a little too slowly.”

There were around 14,400 new cases reported in Germany within 24 hours on Tuesday, bringing the total amount of cases to 815,746.

The death toll rose by 267 within 24 hours. More than 12,800 people have died due to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

The Chancellor said 30 to 40 percent of the population belong to a risk group, so protecting people has to be taken seriously.

The fight against the pandemic is not a purely medical issue, but also an ethical, economic and social one, she said.

Merkel predicts 'strong growth spurt' for 2021

The Economic Summit will discuss whether Germany can succeed in finding a way out of the coronavirus crisis in 2021.

Despite her serious address, Merkel was also optimistic about a vaccine.

READ MORE: How Germany is preparing for the coronavirus vaccination

As far as the economy is concerned, the Chancellor believes there will be recovery next year.

“We expect a strong growth spurt in 2021, provided we get the pandemic under control,” she said.

The government will continue to provide financial support to large and small companies. “We are prepared to accept extraordinary new debt,” she said.

Merkel urged firms to hold out. The winter will be a “tough dry spell for some industries”, she said, especially with regard to the catering and entertainment sector.

The path out of the crisis would be difficult, but could be successful, she said. In the end, it's important to weigh up all coronavirus restrictions against economic and social issues.

It's not a question of deciding between health or economy and culture, but of thinking about all sectors together.

“These measures serve everyone,” said Merkel: “A well-controlled pandemic is best for the economy.”

Member comments

  1. What, even more difficult than dealing with the USA after Obama’s NSA was eavesdropping on german citizens & the Chancellor’s own mobile telephone? Or was that acceptable because Obama was a smooth talking snake-oil salesman!

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COVID-19

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

High profile German virologist Christian Drosten believes Germany will see a severe spike in Covid infections after summer, and that the pandemic will not become endemic this year.

Pandemic in Germany unlikely to end this year, says top virologist

Drosten previously said that Germany would probably be able to declare the end of the pandemic this year.

But in an interview with Spiegel, Drosten said he had reevaluated his opinion. 

“When the Alpha variant came, it was very surprising for me. When Delta appeared I was sceptical at first, then with Omicron we had to reorient ourselves again. And since January there have already been new Omicron subtypes.

“So I would actually like to correct myself: I no longer believe that by the end of the year we will have the impression that the pandemic is over.”

READ ALSO: End is in sight for pandemic in Germany, says virologist 

Drosten also said that Germany will not see a largely Covid-free summer, which has been the case in previous years, and a further increase in infections in autumn. 

“We are actually already seeing an exponential increase in case numbers again,” Drosten said.

“The BA.5 variant (of Omicron) is simply very transmissible, and people are losing their transmission protection from the last vaccination at the same time.”

In other countries, he said, when the number of cases become high, hospitalisation and death rates also rise again. “Unfortunately, that will also be the case here,” said Drosten, but added: “Overall, however, far fewer people will become seriously ill and die than in 2021.”

Drosten said he expected many more infections from September.

“I hope that the school holidays will dampen the increase in cases somewhat. But from September, I fear we will have very high case numbers,” the head of the virology department at Berlin’s Charité hospital told Spiegel.

READ ALSO: German Health Minister lays out autumn Covid plan

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021.

Virologist Christian Drosten at a Covid press conference in 2021. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

If the government does not take any action, he predicted there would be a lot of sick leave across all industries. “That will become a real problem,” he said.

Drosten said he did not expect overcrowded intensive care units in Germany.

But the new BA.5 sub-variant, which is becoming dominant in Germany, may affect people more strongly. 

“The wheel is turning more towards disease again,” said Drosten. It is not true that a virus automatically becomes more and more harmless in the course of evolution. “That makes me even more worried about the autumn,” he said.

Drosten recommends wearing masks indoors during the colder months, saying it is “the least painful” measure.

If, in addition, “up to 40 million people could be immunised or given a booster vaccination” before winter, for example by urgently calling for company vaccinations, that would “really make a difference”, Drosten said.

In the long term, he said it’s inevitable that people will become infected with coronavirus.

He said the population immunity due to vaccinations and infections will at some point be so strong that the virus will become less important. “Then we will be in an endemic state,” said Drosten. In the worst case, however, this could take “several more winters”.

However, Drosten warned against people trying to deliberately infect themselves with Covid, saying getting the infection in summer doesn’t mean people will be protected in winter. 

Drosten himself said he has not yet contracted Covid-19.

“So far, I guess I’ve just been lucky,” he said. “I rarely put myself in risky situations, but I’m not overly cautious either.”

‘Pandemic depends on behaviour’

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI)’s latest weekly report, more outbreaks are occurring in care homes, and the number of patients in intensive care units is slightly rising as infections go up. 

The institute said there had been a 23 percent increase in the 7-day incidence compared to the previous week. On Friday the 7-day incidence stood at 618.2 infections per 100,000 people. There were 108,190 infections within the latest 24 hour period and 90 deaths. 

“The further course of the pandemic depends not only on the occurrence of new virus variants and the uptake of vaccinations on offer, it also depends to a large extent on the behaviour of the population,” said the RKI.

According to the DIVI intensive care register, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs had increased to 810 on Thursday this week, from about 600 at the beginning of the month.

However, that number is still low compared to previous Covid peaks when thousands of people were in intensive care in Germany. 

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