“I am sure the responsibility we are showing now, the burdens we have to bear now and for some time to come, are not in vain. They bring us closer to the end of the pandemic,” he said at Berlin's Bellevue Palace on Monday.
“The coming weeks are a test for all of us.”
Germany is a strong country, he said, because so many people are there for each other amid a grave crisis and are managing to rise above the tough circumstances.
“I am quite sure the pandemic will not rob us of our future. We will overcome this crisis,” stressed the Social Democratic (SPD) politician.
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The latest lockdown
In the face of sharply rising infection and death rates, public and private life will be severely scaled down from this Wednesday.
Shops – except for those providing for daily needs such as supermarkets and pharmacies – will have to shut their doors. Schools are to be closed, or classes will be moved online.
Private gatherings will be limited to one's own household and one other household, but in any case to a maximum of five people. Children up to 14 years of age are exempt.
Only over the Christmas period from December 24th to 26th are there relaxations, but not over New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. On Silvester and into the New Year, there will be a ban gatherings as well as a ban on fireworks in crowded places.
In Saxony, a state particularly affected by the second wave of the coronavirus, the lockdown already took effect on Monday.
The restrictions will apply until at least January 10th. Which measures will remain necessary following the harsh lockdown depend on how successfully Germany can bring coronavirus numbers down, government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin on Monday.
“This will always have to be a difficult, imperative process of consideration,” he said.
He has high hopes that the number of infections will decrease. But: “I think a comprehensive easing is very, very unlikely,” Seibert added.
“January and February are always particularly difficult months in terms of respiratory infections.”
As long as there is not enough vaccine for everyone during the winter phase, “we will still have difficult days.”
The number of new coronavirus infections remains high. Within one day, 16,362 new cases were reported, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday morning.
This is about 4,000 cases more than last Monday, when the number of reported new infections was 12,332. The previous record had been reached on Friday with 29,875 reported cases.
On Sundays and Mondays, the case numbers published by the RKI are usually lower, partly because less testing is done at the weekend. In addition, the health offices reported 188 new deaths within 24 hours.
A week ago, this figure was 147. The previous high of 598 deaths was reached on Friday.
Steinmeier called the situation “bitterly serious”, and on the verge of getting out of control.
“We cannot avoid drastic measures”. The top priority, he said, must be to reduce the number of infections as quickly as possible and then keep them at a low level.
“This can only succeed if we radically limit our contacts and encounters in the coming weeks,” said the President.
He added, “This must be done quickly and comprehensively. It must not get to the point where our health system collapses.”
Referring to the restrictions, Steinmeier said: “Celebrations can be made up for, and friends and relatives will still be happy about presents later. What counts now is to preserve health and save lives.”